SPANISH FORK — Defending 3A champion Snow Canyon put itself in a good position after winning its first two games in this year's state tournament. The Warriors blew out Morgan 11-1 in Saturday's matinee and then edged Spanish Fork 5-4 to cap off a successful first day.
Riley Gates led Snow Canyon from the mound with a complete-game, 12-strikeout performance against Spanish Fork, while Brady Sargent led from the plate with four RBIs off a pair of doubles
“When you have Riley on the mound then you’re confident with what is going to happen,” said Snow Canyon coach Reed Secrist. “Brady can hit the ball a long ways, but we’ve been working on him to drive the ball to the gaps and he did that today.”
Things didn’t start smoothly for Gates, Snow Canyon's ace, in the bottom of the first inning against Spanish Fork, as the Dons took an early 2-0 lead. Cortlen Nielsen highlighted the first-inning effort with an RBI single.
From there, Gates settled down and mowed through Spanish Fork's potent offense, using a very effective breaking ball to record most of the Dons' outs.
“It’s what he’s done all year for us,” Secrist said about his pitcher. “A couple of innings here and there don’t go his way, but he battles through them and then strings four or five good innings together.”
Snow Canyon took its first lead in the top of the third inning on back-to-back doubles from Tyler Wardell and Sargent to give the Warriors a 3-2 lead.
Given the advantage, Gates did his thing while Spanish Fork’s Connor Johnson proved equally effective until the seventh inning.
With two outs and runners on second and third, Sargent looped a double down the third-base line to give his team a 5-2 lead and what proved to be some much-needed insurance.
The Dons refused to go quietly and manufactured two runs by virtue of a Warrior error and a fielder’s choice ground ball that scored a runner from third. Gates put an end to it, however, with a great defensive play on a hit ball that went over his head. The senior pitcher sprinted after the high grounder to track it down just short of the infield dirt, then threw the runner out to end the game.
“He really fields his position well,” Secrist said. “He’s just an all-around great player and I just can’t believe he’s going to graduate. I’ve had him for four years now.”
With the win Snow Canyon remains in the winners bracket and will next take the field Thursday at nearby Dixie State College in St. George.
“We’ve had our bumps and coming up here is not what we chose to do. We wanted to win that region championship,” Secrist said. “I think these guys really believe in themselves and don’t really care where they’re going (to play.) They just believe in themselves and believe that they can get done what needs to be done. We’ll see next week where we’re at and who we play. But we’ll be ready to roll.”