The Vivant Orem Tiger Baseball Classic started play two weeks ago with a field of eight teams. After all the seeding games had been played, three for each team, snowy weather at the end of last week forced the tournament organizers to push their final games to this weekend.
Under beautiful blue skies, the finals were held on Saturday at Brent Brown Park at UVU and featured a game for all eight teams in the tourney. The champion of the inaugural event would be crowned at the culmination of a 6 p.m. championship game between 5A Davis and 3A Wasatch.
The Davis Darts proved to be too much for the Wasps and came away with the first-ever trophy for the event, 11-5.
Wasatch coach Mike Shoell acknowledged afterward that it was a tough game for his troops. “That's probably the best team in 5A,” Shoell said, referring to the Darts. “We would have had to played a near perfect game to beat them.”
Wasatch jumped out to a three-run lead in the top of the first off Dart starter Tyler Hall. Kyle Kelly started things off with a single. A sacrifice bunt by Casey Stevens and a fielder’s choice by Taggart Baxter put Kelly on third when Mason Holmes singled him home.
Shortstop Austen Cloward singled and advanced to third on a throwing error, then was sent home on interference by the third baseman. When the top half of the inning was complete, Wasatch was up 3-0.
Kelly, who was 3-0 on the mound coming into the game, started for the Wasps. He quickly found Davis’ potent lineup came to hit as the Darts put two runs on the board to close the score to 3-2.
Wasatch’s defense took it on the chin a time or two in the next few innings. In the bottom of the second, a two-out hard-hit liner right at second baseman Stevens ricocheted into center field, scoring one runner and moving another to third base. A single by Davis followed and the Darts had put another deuce on the board.
Wasatch fought back when Baxter clubbed a triple to the right-field fence. Holmes earned his second RBI of the game with a hit that scored his catcher, and the Wasps had knotted up the score at four apiece midway through the third inning.
Davis had a breakout inning however, scoring three on a series of hits just out of reach of Wasp infielders. Wasatch had opportunities to get out of the inning, but wasn’t sharp with the glove, giving the Darts extra chances.
In the bottom of the fourth, Davis’ Branson Lattison led off with a double. Jackson Peacock then took the next pitch deep over the left field fence for a home run, giving the Darts a 9-4 advantage.
Wasatch scored its last run of the game in the top of the fifth with a two-out single by Stevens, followed by Baxter’s RBI double. It was all the Wasps could muster off the hard-throwing Hall on this day as he would go the distance for Davis.
The Darts tacked on insurance runs in their half of the fifth, and it was all they needed to seal the deal at 11-5.
Casey Peterson finished on the hill for Wasatch and recorded the Wasps' only shutout inning in the bottom of the sixth.
Wasatch’s Taggart Baxter, Casey Stevens and Kyle Kelly were voted to the first-ever tournament team during the closing ceremony after the game.
Baxter said the tournament was a lot of fun and joked that he would be enjoying the smoothies his mother would be making him with the blender she won in the raffle.
“They had a really good pitcher going for them tonight,” said Baxter. “He threw strikes and mixed up his speeds. I was just fortunate enough to get on top of a couple,” the junior catcher added. “We played well, but we have to sharpen up defensively — cut down on the mistakes before we get into region play. But this was great competition and a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to doing it again next year.”
Kenny Bristow is the staff sports writer for the Wasatch Wave and contributes to the Deseret News high school coverage for the Wasatch region. Email: [email protected]. To contribute to DNews Preps for your area, inquire at 801.237.2143.