High school baseball: Snow Canyon overcomes the odds, wins second-straight 3A championship

Published: Saturday, May 18 2013 8:45 p.m. MDT

Snow Canyon celebrate its win over Desert Hills in the second 3A state high school baseball championship game in Orem Saturday, May 18, 2013. The Warriors beat Desert Hills twice on Saturday to capture the crown.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

OREM — Shortly after Snow Canyon center fielder Brendan Truman squeezed a fly ball for the final out of his team's 7-1 championship game triumph over Desert Hills in the 3A baseball tournament Saturday, typical celebratory bedlam ensued.

Players tackled each other in complete jubilation, and coaches were doused with Gatorade as the Warriors celebrated their second-straight 3A title. However, as the team gathered to form the usual impromptu mosh pit, no particular player was raised up as the hero.

The players instead hoisted up a vacant jersey.

No. 6

KJ's number.

“We did it for KJ,” said senior infielder Chandler Day. “He was an amazing player, a great person, a great friend to all of us. And this season — this championship — was completely dedicated to him.”

KJ is Kreg “KJ” Harrison, a player who died in a freak drowning accident shortly after Snow Canyon’s championship win last season. The incident rocked the team, but has turned into a unique source of inspiration and encouragement.

“We’d say ‘KJ on 2’ before taking the field every time throughout the year,” Day said. “This season was for him and this championship was for him.”

Doing it for KJ couldn’t have been more difficult given what the Warriors were up against Saturday. A devastating eight-inning loss the night before to neighbor Desert Hills left the team with a depleted pitching rotation, a lot of frustration and the gargantuan task of winning three games in one day to secure the championship in the double-elimination tournament.

Fortunately for the players, they had a reference point — 2007, a year that saw coach Reed Secrist turn the exact same scenario into a state championship.

“We were down after last night’s game — no question,” said senior Jake Lindsey. “Coaches just reminded us that it could be done — that they overcame the exact same situation in 2007 — and that gave us hope. We came into today with the attitude that we had nothing to lose.”

Snow Canyon got contributions across the board to overcome the odds.

“I told everyone entering today that we needed them at their best or we couldn’t do it,” Secrist said. “Pitching was especially important because we knew we probably wouldn’t have our two main guys — Riley (Gates) and Brogan (Secrist). I told everyone who had a uniform on that they better be ready to pitch because we might need to use everyone available to us at any time.”

First up was a game against hot-hitting Spanish Fork, which shelled Dixie for a 9-4 victory the night before. A five-run explosion in the second inning and a complete-game performance from Day on the mound keyed a hard-fought 5-2 victory.

“Chandler Day pitching a complete game was enormous not only for that game, but for the entire day,” Secrist said. “We got off to a great start and I don’t know if we could have survived like we did if Chandler doesn’t give us a complete game from the mound.”

Day finished with five strikeouts and added an RBI single in the win.

Next up was season-long nemesis Desert Hills — winners of three straight against Snow Canyon and undefeated in the 3A tournament.

Despite producing relatively few runs against the Thunder the previous three games, the Warrior bats came alive in the first game of the eventual two-game series. Runs in every inning including a breakout nine-run fourth inning that led the game to be called after five innings, with Snow Canyon taking the win 16-6.