KEARNS — Emery was caught in a pickle. The unseasoned Spartans, who start five sophomores and three juniors in the order, were befuddled and bleeding from the mouth. Parowan had punched them square in the teeth in the 2A state championship.
Trailing 5-0, Emery needed a spark. Who knew it would come from the ninth batter in the order? With a prelude of three walks and a single, which plated the first run in the fourth, sophomore Tanner Lake cocked a two-run RBI single.
The at-bat ignited a volt that spread through the yellow and black jerseys like an electrical current. It was the beginning of a two-inning 25-batter stretch that produced 14 runs on eight hits and ultimately concluded with Emery’s second state title in school history with a 15-9 win at Kearns High Saturday.
“I just wanted to get a base hit. I knew what I had to do to help my team win,” Lake said. “So, I just wanted to get a good pitch and put it in play and see what happened.
“This team is probably the greatest team I’ve ever played with,” Lake continued. “I’ve been with these guys for a long time — they’re incredible. They’ll pick you up when you’re down, we’ll always battle — we’re never out of the game.”
The Spartans (19-6) finished on a nine-game win streak. In the postseason they beat North Sevier, top-seeded Beaver — which entered 17-0 — and Millard. Then, in their final two games against Kanab and Parowan they crossed 19 and 15 runs.
“It sounds great to me. I’ve been involved in (a state championship team) in basketball but this is the first in baseball,” Emery coach Steven Gordon said. “It’s awesome. Baseball is tough to win, and we got it done today.”
The Rams (19-9) looked like the team riding the winners bracket in the early innings. However, playing their eighth game in seven days, the tank simply dried up. In the second inning, pitcher Austin Pickett helped his cause with a standup triple. Then, with runners at third and second, Emery’s ace Dillon Wilstead appeared to have rung up Dakota Veater on an inside-curve, but it was called ball-two. The ensuing pitch, Veater cranked a two-run RBI, and Jake Topham quickly followed suit with an RBI single to give the Rams the 3-0 cushion.
“They’ve got hearts of gold. I was worried, myself, early,” Gordon said while referencing the team youth. “ I think we were a little bit tight. It was a big game for them."
“I feel like we were chasing a lot of pitches, we weren’t really playing Emery baseball,” Lake added.
In a dire situation, the Spartans plucked Wilstead, who was 6-1 on the year, and called to fellow sophomore Baylee Bolotas, who proceeded to throw carefree as Emery picked away at the deficit.
“Just throw strikes and have a great defense,” Bolotas said. “I know they make plays for me.”
Excluding a shaky sixth inning when he allowed four runs on four hits, Bolotas capsized Parowan’s offense, including three-and-outs in the fifth and seventh innings.
“Baylee did a great job,” Gordon said. “I was going to make a change there at the end and he told me, ‘I got it coach, give me one more shot’ and I stayed with him. He got it done.”
Tasting its first lead, 7-5, after the seven-run fourth, Emery brewed another run. The Spartans, once again, scored seven runs on four hits — two singles by Gavin McDermott, a two-run RBI double from Ridge Nielson and RBI single by Wilstead.
“We didn’t give up, we competed and we had that one inning we kind of opened up and our confidence shot up.”
For Emery, it was a long road traveled both through the bracket and back from the dead against Parowan. But, as Lake stood in the infield, taking in the moment with his teammates, he was asked if he was excited to embark on another road — the three-hour bus ride back to Emery.
“Oh, definitely,” he said gleefully.
That road is reserved for state champions.