High school baseball: State MVPs played biggest when it mattered most
It’s not just one thing that makes a true MVP but a collective of certain skills that separates the very best from the rest of the pack. In 2014 the four prep classifications showcased particular players who put forth big numbers, proved clutch in big moments and provided key leadership aspects their respective teams rallied around.
The MVPs for 2014 include Pleasant Grove’s Easton Walker (5A), Bountiful’s Ryan Curtis (4A), Grantsville’s Wyatt Barrus (3A) and Emery’s Ridge Nelson (2A).
All four helped lead their teams to deep runs in their respective state tournaments with three of the four helping secure state titles. All four were at their best when the moment was biggest as true MVPs often are.
5A MVP Easton Walker
Baseball runs deep in Walker’s family and it certainly showed this season considering his dominant performance from both the mound and the plate. Walker hit lead-off for Pleasant Grove, the 5A runner-up, and tallied a stellar .424 batting average, but perhaps did his best work from the mound compiling a 9-0 record and 0.86 ERA.
“When he took the mound this year (the) guys just knew we were going to win,” said Pleasant Grove Coach Darrin Henry. “He was so consistent with his approach every week and in no matter what situation we were in. He’s someone who understands the game very well and never gets rattled because of it. His approach is always the same, and I think a lot of that is due to being surrounded by family members who were also top baseball players.”
Indeed Walker had plenty to show him the way growing up from Braden, who went on to play for UNLV, and Devin, who played for Utah.
Easton’s consistent approach in all situations perhaps benefited his team most after a shocking first-round loss to Viewmont in the state tournament. Instead of panicking, the Vikings rebounded and put together seven straight wins before falling 4-3 to Jordan in the final game.
“I don’t think we make that run without Easton. In fact, I know we don’t,” Henry said. “Having a player like that leading the team and coming up big time and again in big spots, you just can’t say enough about him.”
Easton made three starts in a very short timeframe during his team’s seven straight wins in the tournament and always came up big.
“He’s a very hard worker and just seems to know what needs to be done in every situation,” Henry said. “He’s been starting for me since he was a freshman and he’s just a junior so I get him back next year. I’m sure he’ll be that much better next season, so I’m excited about that.”
4A MVP Ryan Curtis
Don’t let Curtis’ size fool you. The kid can pack a wallop and did so from the time his coach Clark Stringfellow made a key switch early in season to help set off Bountiful’s remarkable run to a state championship.
The 5-foot-9, three-sport athlete started 2014 hitting leadoff until it donned on Stringfellow to switch the order.
“He just wasn’t a leadoff hitter and wasn’t doing what we needed him to do at that spot,” Stringfellow said. “He was hitting it hard and we quickly learned that he’s not a leadoff guy but an RBI guy and probably one of the best power hitters in the state if not the best.”
Curtis finished 2014 with a .367 average, four home runs and 23 RBIs, and like most MVPs, did his best work during his team’s championship run.
In the final game against Spanish Fork he went 3-4 from the plate with a home run and four RBIs to lead his team to a 6-4 win.
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