KEARNS Judge has been here before, but this time it's different.
In the 2006 3A baseball playoffs, Judge found itself in the title game as the last undefeated team. But two losses that day to Dixie left a bitter taste in the players' mouths.
With a 10-0, five-inning win over Juan Diego on Friday afternoon at Gates Field, the Bulldogs are back in position again, needing to win only one more game today to claim a state championship.
"Two years ago, we were just happy to be there," said senior Joe Pond, who has been a big part of both teams. "This year, we want nothing less than a title. Anything else would be a huge disappointment, and we are not going to settle for it. We want to win a state championship."
Pond put his team in a great position to do so with his performance on the mound against the Soaring Eagle. After giving up an infield single to leadoff hitter Patrick Fratto, the University of Utah signee did not allow another hit. He struck out nine in five innings without surrendering a walk.
"We know what we are going to get out of Joe. In three years, I don't think I have ever had to take him out of a game," said Judge coach Jeff Myaer. "He is our ace, so we wanted to throw him against Juan Diego and put ourselves in a good position for tomorrow."
Judge is in the best possible position for more reasons than just being the last undefeated team in the tournament. Pond was so efficient in shutting down Juan Diego that he threw only 65 pitches and could possibly be ready for some work in today's title game.
"I am sure we will give the ball to A.J. (Carman). He is the freshest and a great pitcher," said Pond, "but I will tell you, I would love to have the ball. I can throw for sure if we need it."
While Pond shut out the Juan Diego offense, the Bulldogs got contributions at the plate throughout their lineup. Court Zollinger belted a solo home run to lead off the second inning. That was just the start of a five-run rally. An error and a couple of fielder's choices set the table for Keenyn Walker's RBI double, Matt Thorne's two-run double and Carman's first of two RBI doubles.
"That has been this team all year," said Myaer. "We have had guys step up all over the place. It can be a different guy every game."
Mason Minhando had an RBI single in the third, and Zach Myaer hit a two-run single in the fourth. Zach Myaer also had the game-ending RBI with a fielder's choice in the fifth.Judge plays in the championship game today at 11:30 a.m. when it faces the winner of a Juan Diego-Bear River game to be played at 9:30 a.m. at Gates Field on the campus of Kearns High School.