Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Jordan High's baseball team has faced almost all of the top 5A teams in the state this season, so the top-ranked Beetdiggers' head coach, Chad Fife, knows how tough it's going to be to win the 2014 state championship.
"We've played just about everybody," he said in sizing up the talent-laden field for this year's 5A state tournament, which gets underway Tuesday. "I like Pleasant Grove a lot; American Fork is strong, and Copper Hills impressed me a lot. Taylorsville and Cottonwood are both real good, too.
"We played all of the top teams except Layton either in the preseason or during our region play, so I hope that has toughened us up. The only one of the top teams we haven't played is Layton, but they've had a great season, too, so it looks like (the championship chase) is wide open."
Not only is he 5-0 on the mound but, at the plate, Shaver has batted an incredible .514 this season with 10 home runs, 13 doubles and 32 runs batted in.
"Yeah, he's pretty good," Fife deadpanned regarding Shaver.
The ’Diggers have more outstanding pitchers in senior left-handers Morgan Gomez (6-2) and Jacob Dirkson (6-3), so those two strong arms along with Shaver's give Jordan a trio of stellar starters who can prove invaluable come state tourney time.
Add the solid hitting they get from guys like Mason Krueger (batting .427 with 21 RBIs), Cale Hathaway (.355 with three homers and 23 RBIs), sophomore Drew Lisk (.386 with 21 RBIs) and Mason Hayes (.333 with two homers and 16 runs batted in) and it's mighty tough to "beet" these ’Diggers.
Region 3 champion Jordan (20-5) started the season with a sparkling 16-2 record before losing three of its last seven games. But the Beetdiggers clinched the league crown by beating Copper Hills in their final two regular-season showdowns — a couple of dandy one-run duels, 1-0 and 2-1 — and go into Tuesday's state tournament opener looking like the team to beat.
"Our pitching's been good all year and was amazing in that last series with Copper Hills," said Fife. "And we've hit the heck out of the baseball, scoring nine or 10 runs a game, until that last week of the season. Copper Hills pitched it real well against us and they're a good team. I'd feel better about things if we could start hitting a little bit better again this week.
"Whoever gets hot is gonna make some noise in the state tournament. We haven't hit as well the last couple of weeks, so hopefully we'll get the bats back alive again.
"I'm liking it so far," said Fife, who's in his first year as the Beetdiggers' head coach but was an assistant coach the last time they took the state title in 2007, capping a run of three straight trips to the state finals. "It's been a fantastic year for us. Hopefully, that last series with Copper Hills brought ’em back down to earth a little bit. We've got 10 seniors, so we're a little senior heavy. But having kids who've got some state tournament experience is good for sure."
Jordan, however, is definitely not the only strong team with its sights set on this year's 5A baseball state title.
Region 4 champion Pleasant Grove (17-8) won 15 of 17 games before dropping its last two league games to American Fork. The Vikings have a high-scoring attack that has bludgeoned opponents several times this season, winning by scores like 12-2 (twice), 15-7, 11-1, 13-6, 16-1 and 17-4.