KEARNS — Muddy conditions at Kearns High kept pushing the start of Thursday’s 2A baseball state tournament game back and back and back. Originally slated to begin at 1 p.m., the field was finally deemed playable by the grounds crew at about 4:30 p.m.
Grand didn’t mind waiting at all — and that was even before the Red Devils held on for an exciting 7-6 victory over Manti in the 2A winners bracket.
“Our team was just excited to be here. It was kind of frustrating not to be able to play and waiting four hours, but we kept ourselves alive, messing around, just being loose. We’re confident and just having a blast,” said Grand’s Koi Cook, who went 2 for 4 with a pair of RBIs.
That excitement carried over to the field as Grand prevailed in a back-and-forth playoff game between region champions. Errors and mental mistakes on both sides produced wild momentum swings in the final three innings.
Grand’s consistent approach helped it weather the ups and downs to advance in the 2A winners bracket. It will next face Beaver on Friday at 4:30 p.m.
“We’ve been taught all year to be like a tennis ball, just bounce back up. No matter what happens, just bounce back up, and that’s what we did today,” said Cook.
It would’ve been very easy for Grand to implode following a disastrous top of the sixth.
After a two-run triple by Tanner White and an RBI single by Dalton Mcelhaney gave Grand a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the fifth, Manti capitalized on two passed balls to regain the lead in the sixth.
With Manti leadoff hitter T.J. Pogroszewski up to bat and runners at the corners and two out, he forced Mcelhaney to throw countless pitches during the at-bat, two of which got away from the catcher, allowing Darron McLain and Trevor Olsen to score on passed balls.
It didn’t take Grand long to regain the lead. Trailing 6-5 in the sixth, Grand loaded the bases on a single by Adam Jenkinson and back-to-back hit batters (Kiel Schraft and Cameron Taylor).
Cook followed with a double in the gap to clear the bases — even though one of the runs was taken off the scoreboard as Schraft forgot to touch home plate.
Mcelhaney’s pitching and an opportunistic double play by shortstop Brayden Ward made sure it wasn’t a costly mistake.
After Manti got a pair of runners on base in the top of the seventh, Derek Wright hit a laser line drive up the middle that was snared by Ward, who doubled up the base runner on second for the game-ending out.Comment on this story
The sophomore Mcelhaney was superb after entering the game in relief in the fifth as he didn’t allow an earned run over the last three innings.
“He handled it really well. We just needed to give them something different to look at. Koi Cook throws hard and has quality stuff, but they were all over him,” said Grand coach Jared Meador. “Dalton just threw them off, they just weren’t seeing that ball, and it was just enough and that’s pretty good for a sophomore to be able to come in and shut them down.”