He just has that bulldog personality and he really goes after batters. We had no reservations at all going with him on this big occasion. —Dixie coach Danny Ipson, on Cooper Vest
ST. GEORGE — Cooper Vest may be just a 10th-grader, but this isn't his first rodeo.
The left-hander, who hit the game-winning home run in the 3A state championship last season, pitched a one-hit shutout to lead Dixie past Juan Diego 10-0 Friday evening in the 4A semifinals at Bruce Hurst Field.
"I've been here before — it's just another ball game to me," said Vest, who allowed just a fourth-inning Rex Jones single in the complete game. "My teammates made it easy by getting the lead early and playing great defense. They're really swinging the bats well."
The humble Vest downplayed his performance, but it was clear early in the game that the pickings would be slim for the Soaring Eagle.
"He just has that bulldog personality and he really goes after batters," Dixie coach Danny Ipson said. "We had no reservations at all going with him on this big occasion."
Vest retired the first four batters he faced before giving up a walk in the second inning. He then retired six more in a row before losing the no-hitter to Jones in the fourth.
The Soaring Eagle actually loaded the bases in the fifth after a Dixie error and two Vest walks. But the sophomore induced a foul pop out to end the threat, and then retired the side without incident in the sixth to end the game.
The Dixie offense, meanwhile, was in full force. Ahead 1-0 in the third, Flyer Tyson Fisher doubled to the right-field gap to score two runs and make it 3-0. Chase Lundin followed with a two-run homer way over the left field fence to make it 5-0.
"I'm so happy for my teammates and my team when guys like Chase (Lundin) and Hobbs (Nyberg) hit home runs," Fisher said. "We kind of over-swung the first time through the lineup, but after that we got the timing down and everybody was just putting the barrel of the bat on the ball."
Nyberg led off the fourth inning with a solo homer to right field that made it 6-0 and the senior second baseman pushed the lead to 9-0 in the fifth with a bases-loaded double off the fence that scored three.
"Hobbs and Cooper have that same kind of personality, they just compete," Ipson said. "He's the kind of kid that just goes up there and battles every time."
The 10th run of the game came home in the top of the sixth when Fisher walked and eventually scored on a wild pitch. Vest then mowed Juan Diego down in the bottom half of the sixth to end the game via the mercy rule.
Dixie, 26-3, had eight hits and drew seven walks in the game. Nyberg finished with two hits, a walk and four RBIs.
The Flyers play in the 4A championship game Saturday at 11 a.m. and will battle region rival Desert Hills. The Thunder eliminated Juan Diego 14-4 later Friday evening to qualify for the title game. Trey Allred had three hits and Brigham Gardner homered to lead D-Hills to the win.
The Thunder, 21-7, would have to beat Dixie twice to unseat the defending state champs.
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.