KEARNS The Judge Memorial baseball players put on their state championship T-shirts after dispatching Juan Diego 6-2 in the 3A title game Saturday afternoon. On the back of the newly donned duds, it said, "Just getting started." But the truth is, things were started four years ago when coach Jeff Myaer took over, and three current seniors Joe Pond, Tyson Moll and Matt Thorne were merely freshman trying to take a perennial doormat program and turn it into a contender.
"I remember we won like eight games that first year, and we were out of the playoffs right away. We didn't even get to play at a stadium or anything," said Pond, the 3A tournament MVP. "Then, the last two years ended in a bit of disappointment, so it is great to finally get where we wanted. It is like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders and we can relax and enjoy this now."
The Bulldogs finished with a 26-1 record and clearly showed they were the best 3A team in the state. They ran through the field scoring 44 runs in the five playoff games while allowing only five, and the three days spent at Gates Field saw some remarkable performances.
Keenyn Walker and Pond had complete-game efforts from the mound to push the team to the title contest, and junior A.J. Carman continued the trend with his complete game win. He wasn't perfect as he scattered nine hits and allowed two runs with four walks, but every time he needed a big out, he was able to will his way out jams.
"My stuff was high all day," Carman said. "I don't know what it was. It seemed like I got behind on almost every batter, but I was still able to find a way to get it done. I threw some pretty good curve balls in tough spots and they never got the big hit."
Juan Diego stranded 10 runners on the day, including two bases-loaded opportunities in the first and third innings. The Soaring Eagle scored one run in each of those innings, but could have had plenty more.
"The thing about A.J. is he is a tremendous competitor," said Myaer. "I don't know what it is, maybe he needs to start every hitter 2-0 (two balls and no strikes), but he made the pitches when it counted."
Carman also got it done at the plate. He was 3-for-4 with two RBIs, but the biggest hit of the day came from the bat of Moll. With his team trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the third, the senior catcher, who had admittedly struggled in the three games at Kearns, crushed an 0-2 pitch over the right-centerfield wall for a two-run home run and gave the team a lead it would never relinquish.
"I was surprised the pitch came high and on the outside because the first two pitches blew by me on the inside," Moll said. "I really wanted to hit a ball hard and take out some of the frustration of a pretty bad day for me before that."The title is the school's first in baseball. But with only the three seniors leaving, and the experience gained by the squad in its last three playoff runs, the shirts may ring true and this could be only the beginning.
All tournament team
MVP: Joe Pond, Judge
Matt Thorne, Judge
A.J. Carman, Judge
Tyson Moll, Judge
Keenyn Walker, Judge
Patrick Fratto, Juan Diego
Caleb Olson, Juan Diego
Mike Dedrick, Canyon View
Tyson Thompson, Bear River