They are the defending champs, and they ride into this week's 1A baseball tournament as heavy favorites to ride out with their second championship trophy in as many years.

Much hype surrounded the Wayne Badgers at the onset of the 2007 season, and — one preseason and regular season later — they've only added to it.

Wayne's 2007 resume? A 17-0 record. A 10-0 record in tradition-rich Region 15. A whopping 12 double-digit wins, including 10 double-digit wins in their last 12 games. And you could argue that Wayne possesses the best pitching, offense and defense of anyone in the classification.

Are the top-ranked Badgers beatable? Certainly.

But it will take a near-perfect performance for anyone to knock them off during this week's eight-team tournament, which begins today with quarterfinal games at Spanish Fork High (see box).

"Wayne was a really young team (last year) and they've gotten the majority of their kids back this year and will have most of them back next year," said Panguitch coach Clint Barney. "Nobody has really shown so far that they can play with Wayne."

Because of Wayne's youth — most of its starters are juniors — many will be surprised if it doesn't win a title this year and next.

Reigning 1A MVP Porter Ellett, a senior, helps lead the Badgers, and he has a number of stars — Jordan Ellett, Trevor Taylor, Lance Peterson and Tyce Peterson among them — backing him up.

From a psychological point of view, arguably the two teams best-equipped to beat Wayne in this tournament are No. 2 West Ridge and No. 4 Panguitch.

Those two schools will square off today in the quarterfinals.

Panguitch, which has been a dominant force in 1A baseball for a long time, is the only team to have come close to Wayne all year.During their first Region 15 meeting back on Sept. 9, Panguitch led 14-11 in the sixth inning, but the Badgers scored four runs in that frame and held on for a 15-14 victory.

On the other hand, many feel that West Ridge coaches Dave Brock and Wayne Brock are among the best in the classification.

West Ridge beat Panguitch, 5-1, in the preseason, but both teams have changed considerably since.

Panguitch, which lost a lot of players to graduation, has overcome its inexperience and heads into the tournament, having won five of its last six.

West Ridge, meanwhile, has added star pitcher Colin Swanger, who returned to the Academy near the start of region play.

"We're a different club," said Barney, "but he's an impact player because he's their pitcher."

West Ridge and Panguitch face off at 12:30 p.m. The winner will meet No. 5 Dugway or St. Joseph at UVSC Friday.

On the other side of the bracket, Wayne opens its title defense against Wasatch Academy and could face No. 3 Tabiona or Tintic in the quarterfinals.

1A baseball quarterfinals

All games at Spanish Fork High

St. Joseph vs. Dugway, 10 a.m.

Panguitch vs. West Ridge, 12:30 p.m.

Wasatch Academy vs. Wayne, 3 p.m.

Tabiona vs. Tintic, 5:30 p.m.

Final Morning News Rankings


2.West Ridge