The progression has been astounding. To think that just four years ago, Judge didn't win a game in region play and finished 4-16 overall is almost unthinkable when looking at the Bulldogs' baseball team now.
"You would never know how bad this baseball program was by looking at us now," said coach Jeff Myaer. "We are doing things with this group of kids that has either never been done before, or it is so long ago that nobody around remembers it."
Two years ago, the team made an improbable run they tied for third in region at 5-5 in the 3A playoffs, advancing all the way to the final day before losing in the championship game to Dixie.
Last season, the Bulldogs won the school's first region title (9-1, 23-5) and finished third in the state tournament. This year, expectations are even higher.
"We expect to compete for a state title," said Myaer. "We have a group that is now comfortable with winning. They know what it is like to have a target on their back, and they can deal with it. We have a bunch of guys that have been so close to getting a state title and yet not quite getting it. Now, we want them to be even hungrier to take that next step and get that championship."
The Bulldogs are loaded with talent. The same core group that has made it to the final day in the state playoffs the last two seasons is back. Joe Pond, Tyson Moll, Court Zollinger, AJ Carman, Keenyn Walker, Stallon Saldivar and Matt Thorne want to break through and get the team its first state title.
Should the Bulldogs fail on their quest for a championship, look for a team such as Juan Diego, Cedar, Bear River, Canyon View or Wasatch to move into the top spot.
Spanish Fork has everything it takes to win its second state title in three years. The Dons return the arms that earned all 18 of their wins last season and go five deep in their rotation.
With players like Tyler Hanks, Brock and Adam Duke, Gentry Mitchell, Devin Nelson, Kirt Daley and Damon Ward, it is easy to see why the coaches have tabbed them as the team to beat.
If Spanish Fork is the 5A favorite, Timpanogos would be ranked as No. 1B. The Timberwolves have a strong baseball tradition, and the players to back it up. Gentry Croft, Brett Lopez and Taylor Lyons are three of the top players in the state and make the T-Wolves a definite contender.
A team that turned some heads last season with young talent was Fremont. The Silver Wolves finished third in the tournament, and six starters are back from that team. Derek Monkres, Chase Moore and Dalton Aiken look to build upon last season's run and continue what they started.
Other teams that could make a run at a championship include Bingham, Taylorsville, Riverton, Pleasant Grove and American Fork.
Coach Jon Hoover will deny it, but Cottonwood is once again the team to beat. The Colts have built a dynasty and are gunning for a fourth consecutive title. With players such as junior Kendall Mayer and Oregon State signee and 4A tournament MVP Kyle Beverly returning, until someone knocks them from the top, the Colts are the favorites.
Cyprus has eight starters back from last season's semifinalists. The Pirates have experience, talent and, now, expectations.
"We are at a point where if we go out and play our best baseball, we expect to win," said coach Bob Fratto. "We couldn't always say that before, but with this group of players, we have enough talent and experience to compete against anyone."
With all-region players such as Dexter Fisher, Austin Pollock, Austin Shakespear, Taylor Jones and Jordan Ikari, Cyprus will be a team to watch.
Mountain Crest, Springville, Provo and the new schools from down south in Pine View, Dixie and Snow Canyon are other teams that should compete for a title.
With eight starters back from a team that went 24-3 and won the 2A state title, Gunnison is favored to make it back-to-back championships.
"We have an experienced group of seniors led by Bradley Jackson and Kevin Nay," said coach Jared Anderson. "We look to continue the success of last year and continue to play good baseball."
Nay was the classification's MVP last season, as he had a 1.49 ERA on the mound while hitting .425 at the plate. Jackson had 115 strikeouts and posted a 2.66 ERA. Max Sanders, Jace Anderson, Jaden Hill, Heston Neal and Taylor Newman were other leaders on the team and expect big seasons.
Richfield returns plenty of talent from last season's second-place finish. Jesse Hartle may be the classification's best pitcher, and he isn't a slouch at the plate, either. J.D. Michaelsen can throw quality innings as well as hit. If the Wildcats can get back to last year's pace, they will be right there competing for a state championship.Juab, Beaver, Parowan and San Juan are a few other teams vying for a 2A title.
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