OREM — After a one-year absence, Wayne is back on top in 1A baseball.
The Badgers claimed their fourth state championship in five years by beating rival Panguitch 3-1 on Saturday afternoon. It was a day Wayne junior Randy Ellett will never forget, as he was the winning pitcher and drove in all the Badgers' runs.
"It feels great," Randy Ellett said. "I don't know if I've felt anything greater."
Thanks to their workhorse pitcher, the rest of the Badgers feel the same way.
Randy Ellett used all of his 14 allowed innings in the state tournament, throwing the first five against Panguitch in the title game. He was dominant the first four innings before he and his teammates got out of a tremendous jam in the fifth. He had nine total strikeouts.
"He pitched an incredible five innings," said Wayne's Chris Manzanares, who threw the final two innings to save the game for the Badgers. "If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't be here,"
Randy Ellett certainly had some help though. He got a big boost from second baseman Ty Rees in the fifth. After Panguitch led off the fifth with three straight singles and cut the Badgers' lead to 2-1, Randy Ellett got Panguitch's Zach Brophy to hit a grounder to Rees, who then threw a runner out at home to record the first out of the inning.
Randy Ellett buckled down from there, striking out the last two batters he faced to get out of trouble. He said that while he approached the game like it was any other, he knew he could rely on his teammates behind him.
"I know we have a good team," he said. "I just pitched the best I can, and let my team play defense."
Offensively, Randy Ellett's teammates got in position for him to drive them in.
The Badgers got on the scoreboard in the third inning. Drayston Nelson led off and reached first on an error. He was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Rhett Taylor and got to third on a sacrifice fly by Taylor Albrecht. Randy Ellett then scored Nelson with an RBI single. Randy Ellett drove Nelson in again in both the fifth and seventh innings to account for the rest of the Badgers' runs.
For Wayne coach Scott Ellett, Randy's father, it was special to see his son come through in such a big spot after the junior missed a lot of baseball during the summer with a back injury.
"He's done what he needed to do to come back healthy," Scott Ellett said. "He mentioned the other day, 'It feels good to feel good.' For someone not just to win but to battle and overcome an injury and see that pay off, it's extra special for him knowing what he's gone through."
Manzanares, part of Wayne's one-two punch on the mound, was also big in the Badgers' win. He didn't allow a baserunner in the two innings he pitched, making quick work of the Bobcats.
"I knew it was going to take both of us," said Manzanares, one of six seniors on the team along with Taylor, Trevor Behunin, Brennan Rees, Cameron Chappell and Troy Stephenson. "We had to work as a team to do it. I knew that we could accomplish anything since the start of state tournament."
The Badgers certainly made things interesting during their title run. They fell behind West Ridge by five runs in the quarterfinals and Piute by three in the semis before battling back to win both games. Their goal was to avoid that type of drama on Saturday.
"Oh heck no, that was trippy," Manzanares said of wanting to avoid playing from behind again. "We acted like we weren't panicking, but I bet you we all were. But we knew we could do it, and that's what we did."
Scott Ellett said that confidence helped put the Badgers over the top.
"They just showed a lot of heart," he said of his players. "We haven't always fired on all cylinders, haven't always played our best, but they honestly believed they could win. If they didn't, they wouldn't be here. They could have quit and had reasons to give up, but they kept working and kept fighting."
And it paid off with a state championship.