KEARNS — The only thing missing from the 2A winners bracket championship game was Walter Matthau.
In what was supposed to be a competitive game in the second-to-last round, fans at Kearns High instead witnessed a scene reminiscent of something coach Buttermaker and "The Bad News Bears" would have produced. In five innings, Emery overwhelmed Kanab in every possible way and advanced to the 2A state championship with a convincing 19-1 win Friday.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” Emery coach Steven Gordon said. “Our goal was to come out and try to knock them on the chin and score early because we saw them play (Thursday) and they’re a momentum team. Our guys responded well and we hit the ball well today — one through nine we hit it.”
The Kanab Cowboys (10-10) were an undervalued squad that experienced hiccups and hardships during the regular season but had caught fire at the precise moment. However, that momentum unraveled Friday with uncharacteristic errors — eight in total — and an inability to find open gaps in the Spartan defense.
“It feels great,” Gordon said. “We have one more to get but it feels great and we’ve been trying to get our kids there this whole season. Hopefully we can get one more.”
Emery (18-6) cracked the whip on Kanab’s short-handed rotation. Because of the Utah high school playoff format pitchers are limited to 14 innings on championship weekend, and the Cowboys’ ace, Chase Adams, was unavailable after tossing eight innings Thursday.
In the first inning, Tappan Draper and Tyson Roper preluded Drexler Tanner’s two-run RBI double with consecutive singles. Emery extended its advantage to 4-0 following an error and a passed ball. Then, Ethan Tuttle slapped an RBI single, giving the Spartans a 5-0 lead and forcing Kanab to call to the bullpen.
Another passed ball, two walks and an RBI sac fly to center closed out the first inning. The damage was severe: eight runs on five hits through 13 batters.
“Everybody's approach at the plate was great and we didn’t swing at bad pitches. We hit some nice balls,” Gordon said. “I can’t remember the first inning – it was a lot of runs ago. Our kids got it done, bottom line. We showed up focused and our kids played well.”
Emery, despite the inordinate amount of runs, only tallied nine hits. A vast amount of runs came courtesy of fielding errors, walks and passed balls.
The Spartans will face the winner of the one-loss bracket semifinal between Kanab and the winner of Beaver/Parowan. That game will take place at 9 a.m. at Kearns High on Saturday morning, with the championship following at 11.
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