OREM — When Salem Hills' baseball team gathered together last August, it was fully aware that it had the talent to contend for a state championship this spring in only the fifth year of the program's existence. However, it also knew that to accomplish such a lofty goal, cohesion and faith were necessary.
“We know we’ve got the skill level, but if you come together as a family and you’re unified then special things are going to happen,” Skyhawks coach Scott Haney said of the summer meeting.
Flash forward to the present, and Friday was the final hurrah for Salem Hills' starting nine, purely consisting of seniors. The players' motto — "Get it for him" — centered around winning a title for one guy: their coach, who hadn't won a region or state championship in 26 years of coaching.
The Skyhawks met before Friday's 4A state championship game at Brent Brown Ballpark — just as they'd done all those months ago — and then they went out and made their motto ring true.
Winning 14-10 over neighbor Maple Mountain, the 'Hawks captured the 4A baseball title for themselves and for their coach.
“This is bittersweet because today at batting practice I told them it’s the last time we’re together on our field,” said Haney, who previously lost in the state championship game in 1999 and 2001 while coaching at Payson. “This senior crew has been — it makes me cry almost — to know that I’m going to be losing them. Then my son (Luke) being involved is pretty cool.”
Ace pitcher Colton Hill, who finalized his high school career with 24 wins on the mound, including a 12-1 record his senior year, embraced the championship trophy while he searched for words.
“I’ve played with most of these kids since I was 11 years old,” Hill said. “Our catcher, Mitch (Jorgensen), has caught every single pitch for me since I was 11. It’s what we’ve worked for our whole lives. It’s an indescribable feeling. I couldn’t have asked to do it with a better group of guys.”
The Skyhawks (27-3) ended their season winning 18 of their last 19 games, including the final 10.
“This is awesome — awesome — to get that for my dad,” Luke Haney said.
Maple Mountain (21-8) was dealt the difficult task of beating Salem Hills twice after migrating through the one-loss bracket. Despite the luxury of playing with house money in the first of two possible championship games, Scott Haney understood the importance of playing to win the first one — and ultimately handed the reins to Hill on short rest.
“This morning I texted him and said, ‘You ready?’ and he said, ‘Always.’ He wanted the ball,” Haney explained.
Hill delivered in more ways than one. In 4 1/3 innings of work he scattered four hits with six strikeouts, and in second inning, he uncorked a two-run homer to left to give the ‘Hawks a 6-1 lead.
“He flat out deals all the time — day in and day out,” Taylor Snyder said of Hill. “We’re going to get a win when he’s on the mound. We all know it. We've just got to back him up and make some defensive plays and he’ll lock it down.”
“For him to not have somewhere committed already to go play — some people are crazy in the state of Utah,” coach Haney added. “He can play the outfield. He can play first. He can pitch. (And) he can hit like crazy. I hope they find him after this state tournament.”
The Skyhawks scored three runs in the first when Luke Haney whipped a two-run moonshot to left, and shortly thereafter a throwing error past the third-base bag brought across another run.
Then, after Maple Mountain stole a run back after the ‘Hawks mishandled a would-be double play, Salem Hills added three more runs in the second behind Hill’s dinger. The lead blossomed to 10-1 in the third inning after Lundell, Snyder and Hill accounted for four RBIs.
The top of the order — Lundell, Snyder, Hill and Haney — combined for 11 RBIs while going 10 for 17 at the dish.
“Whoever is going to rake in the championship — let ‘em do it,” said Snyder, who led the state with 12 home runs, of his teammates delivering the long bombs. “A win is a win for me.”
In the fifth inning, it appeared as if the 10-run-mercy rule would come into effect with Salem Hills leading 13-3. But, the Golden Eagles prolonged action on Arik Mack’s sacrifice fly to center.
Maple Mountain retired the side quickly in the sixth inning before pulling within three, 13-10, on RBI singles from Ivan Brooks, Jonah Flinders and Kaden Poulsen along with Salem Hills’ throwing error.
But as coach Haney has explained all year: “They score and we come back and score 90 percent of the time.”
With runners on the corners the ‘Hawks attempted a double steal. The Eagles recognized the scheme and caught Snyder in a pickle between third and home, but as he dove toward the bag, Maple Mountain overthrew the pickoff and Snyder busted home for an insurance run.
“Special things are going to happen and you just saw what happened,” coach Haney said. “I didn’t even know this until the region championship, but their motto has been ‘Get it for him,’ and they got for me.”
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