High school baseball: 4A tournament field wide open
Tom Smart, Deseret News
Although Bountiful's baseball team mowed through its Region 6 schedule, coach Clark Stringfellow knows things will be much more difficult in the 4A state playoffs.
First-round games in the double-elimination tournament begin Tuesday, and Stringfellow believes — like most 4A coaches — that this year’s competition is wide open.
“There’s no clear-cut favorite,” Stringfellow said. “We’re coming in playing well, but we’re just one team that’s playing well around the state. Every round will be a test starting Tuesday and that’s how we’re approaching it. There will be no easy games and no one we can overlook.”
Bountiful (18-6) begins the tournament with a gleaming 14-0 Region 8 record, fueled by taking on some top California teams just prior to its region slate.
“I think playing those California teams tough every game really gave us a sense of how good we could be as a team,” Stringfellow said. “I think we really came together as a team on that trip and it was the reason we were so successful in region.”
The Braves enter the tournament with some potent hitting throughout their lineup, but pitching and defense are the places where they hang their hat.
“It’s the best pitching staff I’ve ever had here and probably the best defense we’ve had as well,” Stringfellow said. “Our starting pitching has been especially good. Guys like Parker Depasquale, Takoda Lunt and Tanner Redding have really been great for us along with all our pitchers.”
Bountiful has also benefited from some multisport athletes, whom Stringfellow feels have raised the team’s overall confidence and approach.
“I feel that having guys like Sam Merrill, who was so good leading the basketball team to the 4A championship, has really given our guys a great attitude,” he said. “We just have some all-around great athletes who know how to win no matter what sport they’re playing.”
Bountiful’s competition for the 4A crown includes Region 5 champion Mountain Crest (18-6, 15-2 in region).
The Mustangs enter the tournament having won 15 of their last 16 games, including seven straight.
“We like how we’re playing and we’ve battled some tough teams up here,” said Mountain Crest coach Alex Hansen. “Teams like Logan and Box Elder are tough teams that can go far, but then there’s all those teams in Region 8 — that’s a region I think may be the best and most competitive. But don’t forget about Region 7 where Murray and Skyline have played great, along with some other great teams. It’s just tough everywhere.”
Region 7’s top two teams are Skyline (19-6) and Murray (15-6), who compiled identical 10-2 region records.
“We know Murray is good having played them early in the year, and like us, they’ve probably gotten that much better since we saw them,” Stringfellow said. “As for Skyline and the others I’m not as familiar, but it’s a tough region where any of the four teams could come out and play well.”
As for Region 8, Spanish Fork (17-7) narrowly edged out Maple Mountain (17-7) and Salem Hills (17-8) for the region title.
“Region 8 is always strong and the top teams there are always among the top teams in the state most years,” Hansen said. “Just like any tournament pitching will be the big key for any team and the team that can stay consistent and truly take it one game at a time will have a great chance of going far. It’s going to be a great tournament and we’re excited about it.”
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