All year we've been hearing about how good these other teams are. I think that gives the kids an edge so that they want to go out there and prove everyone wrong. —Desert Hills head coach Chris Allred
ST. GEORGE — After scoring just one run in a state quarterfinal loss to Juan Diego on Wednesday, Desert Hills dropped into what has become familiar territory — its backs are against the wall.
The Thunder responded to the pressure like they have all season long, putting together a couple of huge wins, including an 18-2 drubbing of Region 9 rival Snow Canyon Thursday night in the elimination bracket of the 4A state baseball tournament at Bruce Hurst Field.
"(Assistant) coach (Randy) Wilstead brought us in this morning and told us that the pressure was off, that we don't have to worry about trying to be perfect, that we can just go out there and have fun and that's exactly what we did," said Thunder first baseman Brigham Gardner.
Of course, it's always a lot of fun when the opportunity arises to beat a rival.
"All year we've been hearing about how good these other teams are," DHHS head coach Chris Allred said. "I think that gives the kids an edge so that they want to go out there and prove everyone wrong."
Desert Hills finished in third place in Region 9, four games behind Dixie and three back of Snow Canyon. But after a 5-1 loss to Snow Canyon in late April, the Thunder exacted revenge on the Warriors with a 4-3 win at home and are 7-1 since that loss.
"This team is resilient," said Thunder pitcher Dallen Turner, who got the win Thursday night. "We definitely came out flat against Juan Diego. We didn't play like we're capable of playing. But when we play like we did today, we're tough to beat."
Thursday night's elimination game against Snow Canyon didn't exactly start right for Desert Hills. The Warriors got a solo home run by Austin Deming and another run came home on an error in the top of the first for a 2-0 lead.
But Snow Canyon, which had won three straight since opening the playoffs with a loss to Orem, had used up its regular pitching rotation and had to reach deep for young players against the Thunder.
As it turned out, those young pitchers weren't quite ready for the spotlight. Desert Hills wasted no time in erasing the early deficit in the bottom of the first. Bo Barben doubled and Trey Allred singled. Drew Thorpe then singled to right to make it 2-1.
An error at first brought home Allred and tied the game. Two batters later, Gardner hit a sacrifice fly to center field to bring home Thorpe and make it 3-2. The first-inning onslaught continued as Sam Rhoton scored on an error and Jayden Peterson singled to bring in another run, making it 5-2. Allred and Thorpe each had their second single of the inning to bring in a couple more runs and when the dust had cleared, DHHS had scored eight runs on eight hits and two errors for the 8-2 lead.
With newfound confidence, Turner shut Snow Canyon down in the second and third innings. The Thunder then put the game away with three runs in the third and a big seven-spot in the fourth.
"I feel like when we have a lot of energy, we play well," Trey Allred said. "We were a little bit flat against Juan Diego and that was a little bit of a bummer. Coach told us we could do one of two things: We could lay down and die or we could show them what we're made of."
The Thunder ended up with 18 runs and 18 hits in the game, plus took advantage of four Snow Canyon errors. Trey Allred had four of those hits, with Thorpe picking up three base knocks and four other Desert Hills players rapping two each.
The offensive explosion wasn't limited to one game. Earlier in the day, Desert Hills beat Spanish Fork 9-8. In that game, D-Hills led 9-1 and had to hold on as the Dons rallied back. But DHHS survived and advanced with Landon Levine knocking three hits in the win and Thorpe gutting out the complete game on the mound.
The Thunder, 20-7, are one of three teams remaining at the 4A tournament. Dixie and Juan Diego play in the state semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Friday, with the Desert Hills taking on the loser of that game in an elimination contest at 7 p.m. at Hurst Field.
Snow Canyon, which finishes the year with a 26-5 record, defeated Pine View 7-5 earlier Thursday before falling to the Thunder in the late game.
Andy Griffin is a southern Utah broadcaster and sports writer and has been involved in covering sports in Utah, including professional, college and high school sports, since 1989. Andy is the sports editor at STGNews.com.