I just kept telling them we had to finish. We knew we could beat Panguitch, but it took our best efforts to finally get it done. —Valley coach Joseph Sorensen
OREM — For Valley third baseman McClain Roundy, the split-second it took for him to reach out and grab the ground ball for the final out of the 1A baseball state championship game seemed like an eternity.
And the stories he will tell will likely get even better for the rest of his life.
Roundy kept the ball in front of him, forced it into his glove, stood up and quickly ran to third base for a forced out that lifted the Valley Buffaloes past the neighboring Panguitch Bobcats 7-5 on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon at Brent Brown Ballpark.
“I heard my heart racing; I really didn’t have time to think,” Roundy said. “We had so many chances the last two innings. I kept saying, ‘hit it to me, hit it to me,’ and when they did, I stayed with it (the ball) and finished it.”
Valley had lost twice previously to Panguitch this season. The schools are only about 40 miles apart, and each roared through the tournament with convincing victories. The Buffaloes looked like they would have no trouble with Panguitch as Roundy, Orrin Wood, Cameron Franklin and Gavin Hoyt had big hits that helped give Valley a 7-0 lead after three innings.
Pitcher Garrett Spencer sailed along, too. He retired the first 10 Panguitch batters and appeared to have a lot of confidence until the Buffaloes committed three errors in the final two innings to give their rivals a chance.
Panguitch narrowed the gap to 7-3, and Jaren Frandsen’s impressive relief effort helped the Bobcats believe they still had a chance. For Valley, Wood was forced to replace Spencer when he reached the UHSAA’s mandated 110-pitch count. Wood wasn’t flashy, but he ended Panguitch’s threat and allowed the Buffaloes to win their first state baseball title in three years.
“He (Wood) has done that for us several times this season,” said Valley coach Joseph Sorensen. “The kids had a case of the jitters for a while today that prevented us from putting it away. We seemed to have a collective lump in our throats.”
Wood’s efforts were especially noticeable in the final inning after a couple of hits, an error and a base on balls narrowed the lead to 7-4. However, he made his best pitches with the bases loaded.
He retired Panguitch’s starting pitcher, Remington Veater, on a ground ball to first base and then the crowd fell silent for a split-second as pinch-hitter Luis Valenzuela smacked a sharply hit ball that Roundy grabbed instinctively.
“I just kept telling them we had to finish,” Sorensen said. “We knew we could beat Panguitch, but it took our best efforts to finally get it done.”
Bruce Smith grew up in Boise and is a longtime newspaper sports writer. He writes primarily high school sports articles for the Deseret News.