High school baseball: Bingham, Spanish Fork, Snow Canyon and Emery top Deseret News preseason poll
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Springtime weather in Utah can be pretty unpredictable.
With seemingly equal parts of rain and shine, cool and warm, windy and calm — and quite often you get both ends of the spectrum in the same day — it's what we'd call Forrest-Gump-box-o'-chocolates kinda weather.
Yep, you just never know what you're gonna get.
But if there's one thing that is usually pretty predictable in Utah in the springtime, it's that certain high school teams — namely Bingham, Spanish Fork and Snow Canyon — are gonna be tough to beat on the baseball diamond.
Bingham, the defending 5A state champion, tops the Deseret News preseason poll among 5A teams, followed in order by Pleasant Grove, Cottonwood, American Fork and Jordan. In the 4A poll, perennial powerhouse Spanish Fork — with three straight state titles from 2009-11 and another one in '06 — leads the way, with defending 4A state champion Salem Hills second. Maple Mountain was ranked third, Timpanogos fourth and Mountain Crest fifth.
Two-time defending 3A state champion Snow Canyon tops the 3A rankings, followed in order by Desert Hills, Juan Diego, Dixie and Pine View.
And in 2A, defending state champion Emery sits in the top spot, with Parowan second in the poll, Beaver third, Grand fourth and Manti fifth.
Bingham graduated three first-team all-state players off last year's state championship squad that finished 22-7, including 5A MVP Chase Tavonatti.
But the Miners and coach Joey Sato, whose team also took the state title in 2011, are still being looked upon as the team to beat as the 2014 season gets underway.
Although you can probably rack it up in part to tradition and reputation, Coach Sato is still somewhat mystified by his team's high ranking this year.
"I honestly can't give you a reason for the ranking," he said. "Makes no sense to me. ... We have only one player who played at the varsity level last year. We have our smallest group of senior players we've had since 1999. So on paper, we shouldn't even be in the mix."
This year's team is led by senior infielder/pitcher Austin Florez, an honorable mention all-state selection last season.
"We are fortunate that we have great kids who attend Bingham who contribute to many successful programs, as witnessed by our success during the football season, girls volleyball season, drill team, basketball season, etc.," Sato said.
"It also manifests itself in other programs as witnessed by our most recent state championships in debate and in the academic decathlon this past weekend. Our other activity programs in music and drama are also outstanding.
"We have a great school culture of success that has been developed here over many years," he said. "And those old traditions carried over from the old school in the canyon don't hurt, either. So we feel so blessed in that regard."
Pleasant Grove, which sits second in the season-opening 5A poll, features junior pitcher/shortstop Easton Walker, who's already committed to play college baseball at BYU after earning second-team all-state honors last year.
Other top returnees for the Vikings include senior pitcher/outfielder Jade Smoot, senior pitcher Brandon Coombs, senior first baseman Brody Blackhurst, sophomore catcher Payton Henry, junior outfielders Zach Peterson and Chase Merrell, and junior infielder Ben Eldredge.
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