High school baseball: Pleasant Grove looks primed to repeat as champions
With some top options returning, Pleasant Grove appears a decent bet to repeat as 5A state baseball champions. The Vikings will begin their title defense, along with Spanish Fork (4A), Pine View (3A) and Manti (2A), this week with the Utah prep baseball season getting underway in earnest.
"We're just excited to get it going," said Pleasant Grove coach Darrin Henry. "It's a great time of the year and we feel we could be pretty good again this year if things come together."
Pleasant Grove returns five players who saw consistent roles from last year's team. Chief among them is Henry's son, Payton Henry, along with pitcher Derek Wall, who was the game-winning pitcher in last year's 6-2 championship win over Bingham.
"It's a good core of guys we're returning and that should help us," Darrin Henry said. "We have a couple of guys who were real important for us last year, so just having those two back should be a really good thing for us."
As for returning as defending champions, Pleasant Grove's coach is hopeful it will serve as another advantage.
"It's nice having made that run, but we'll see if it's to our advantage or not," Darrin Henry said. "But there's a lot of good teams we'll have to get through, we always do."
Top teams in 5A, other than the Vikings, appear to be Taylorsville, Cottonwood, American Fork, Bingham and Lone Peak.
"Cottonwood returns a lot of players off a very good team and Taylorsville looks really good as well," Darrin Henry said. "You know Bingham will always be good and it's the same for American Fork. There should be a lot of good competition this year."
As for 4A, Region 8 again looks to provide the classification's top teams, but others, such as Region 7's Timpanogos and Region 5's Woods Cross also look strong, along with several others.
Spanish Fork returns as defending champions, but lost a lot of its top options from a year ago. This time around the Dons will rely on a lot of juniors to step up and play key roles, according to Spanish Fork coach Gub Nelson.
"There’s a lot of competition between players at almost every position," Nelson said.
As mentioned, competition will again be stiff in Region 8 with Salem Hills returning most of its top players as will Maple Mountain, which battled Spanish Fork until the end during last year's playoffs.
As for Timpanogos, it returns a bevy of starting experience off a team that surpassed expectations to win Region 7 last season.
"(We) hope for the experience of last year paying dividends for an even better finish this 2016 season," said Timpanogos coach Kim Nelson.
Woods Cross will have to make do with several of the team's biggest contributors having graduated since last season.
"We are pretty young in a lot of places, so we may have to transition in some ways," said Woods Cross coach Trevor Amicone. "But the young guys are going to have to step up. We are excited for the year and ready to get going.”
Region 9 looks to house 3A's top teams which include last year's 3A champion Pine View.
"We have a lot of returning seniors and at our full potential we should end the season well," said Pine View coach Troy Wall. "Our one goal is to end the season like we did last year on top with team unity.”
Other top teams out of Region 9 include Snow Canyon, Desert Hills and Cedar.
Manti won it all in 2A last year, but could be hard-pressed to repeat as champions in 2016.
“We will have a very young team, with just three seniors. We may have starting varsity players from all four classes," said Manti coach Jim Nelson. "We are hoping our younger players learned from our championship team what it takes to win."
Manti's main competition in 2016 should come from Enterprise, North Sevier and Gunnison.
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