KEARNS — Skyline has always been revered as an athletically dominant school since its establishment in 1962.
Famous alums including Danny Vranes, Brandon Doman and Justin Braun have donned the navy and gold during their high school careers. Since its inception, Skyline has hung 14 football banners and grasped numerous titles in every single sport.
That, however, could quickly change. Behind another dominating pitching performance, Skyline advanced to the 4A state baseball championship game for the first time since 2004 with a 7-3 win over Murray at Kearns High.
"They have the banner up and there's no number on it. So, every time I look at that it makes me want to work a little harder," Skyline coach Erik Hansen said. "Every day I'm reminded that we haven't had one. This is big for us — this is what we've worked for, this is what you coach for."
It was Skyline's 11th straight win and the 17th of the previous 19 games. The last setback came nearly a month ago against Murray, during a region series Skyline won 2-1. The Eagles meet Timpanogos (20-12) Friday at 1:30 p.m. at Kearns. The T-Wolves have won six straight games in the one-loss bracket after falling in the first round.
Thursday, as they have all year, the Eagles (22-6) relied on superb play from the mound — this time from Bridger Berrett.
Berrett improved to 8-2, avenging his only region loss to the Spartans, in a complete game effort. The senior connected on 65 percent of his pitches despite his count skyrocketing to 113. With his slider and change-up working, he recorded eight strikeouts and allowed five hits – three of which came in the final inning.
"He was absolutely lights out today," Hansen said of Berrett. "We had a feeling it was going to be his day — you can't say enough about him."
Skyline now has the luxury that most teams only dream about. By throwing Berrett, the No. 2 pitcher in the rotation, the Eagles have the decision to start Luke Myers (4-2) in his usual spot, or bring in perhaps the best pitcher in 4A, Lars Lofgren (8-1), on short rest for the title game.
"You can't ask for anything more than that," Hansen said of his pitching situation. "Our pitchers have been outstanding. We knew it was going to be pitching and defense that was going to win, so we're positioned right for tomorrow."
The choice is likely a game-day decision. "Who knows? We'll find out tomorrow," Hansen said when asked who was getting the start.
Skyline, similar to its quarterfinal win against Mountain Crest, used a huge inning to take control over the Spartans (18-9).
Leading 1-0 in the fourth inning, with the bases loaded, Clint Berhow slapped an RBI single. Matt Evans followed with another RBI single to push the score to 3-0.
After Berrett reached safely on a Murray fielding error and a called balk, Bryce Barr ripped a two-run single to right, extending the lead to 6-0.
Skyline added another run in the fifth inning when Lofgren ripped an RBI sacrifice fly after Mike Staes had chipped in his second double of the game. The Eagles were in complete control and it had every appearance of a shutout heading into the final Murray at-bat.
Berrett, who had thrown 88 pitches through six innings, had lost his juice.
"They were pickin' up on my pitches pretty good (in the seventh)," he said. "I don't know what was going on. They were reading my pitches pretty good."
With two outs, Murray reeled off four hits in five batters, posting three runs.
Hansen, on the brink of calling to the bullpen, decided to leave Berrett in.
"Maybe the next batter you're starting to think about it at that moment," Hansen said when asked if it crossed his mind to make the call. "You could kind of tell that his location and the pop in his fastball left him a little bit in the last couple innings."
Following a meeting on the mound, Berrett fired his final pitch that Skyline gloved for the ticket to the big show.
At Kearns High, today
Timpanogos (20-12) vs.
Skyline (22-6), 1:30 p.m.
Note: If Timpanogos wins, a second game will be played at either 4:30 p.m. or 7 p.m.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company