ST. GEORGE — Guts. Chutzpah. Intestinal fortitude. Whatever it's called, the Dixie Flyers showed a ton of it in the 4A state championship game.
With two strikes and one out, Kayler Yates laid down a perfect bunt on a suicide squeeze play and Blake Oaks slid safely across the plate to lift Dixie to a 1-0 victory over Desert Hills in the 4A state championship Saturday at Bruce Hurst Field.
"It was a risky play," Yates said. "He gave me the sign and they just threw a pitch that was pretty easy to bunt. I got it down and as soon as I did, I knew we had scored. I've been a pretty good bunter in the past, and he just threw me a really good pitch to bunt."
Oaks, who had doubled to lead off the inning, went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Hobbs Nyberg. With slugger Tyson Fisher on deck, Yates stepped to the plate showing no signs of a sacrifice. He worked the count to 2-2, swinging and missing at the second strike.
"I hesitated early in the count because we had Tyson on deck," Dixie coach Danny Ipson said. "I had no doubt Kayler would get the bunt down, it was just a matter of if he could keep it fair. But, even if it was foul, that would be a strikeout and then we'd have Fisher coming up with two outs."
With two strikes, the Thunder defense backed up a little until they saw Yates square to bunt. By then, Oaks was on his way home.
"When he said suicide squeeze, I was like, 'Let's do this,'" Oaks said. "So I just trusted in my coach, and I got halfway and then scored. I was not worried at all — Kayler's the best bunter. And he laid it down perfectly. It was perfect."
Dixie similarly won the 3A championship last year in walk-off fashion. But in that game, freshman Cooper Vest hit a home run in the bottom of the seventh for the victory. This time, it was a pair of juniors in Yates and Oaks who combined on the winning play. But the big moment would never have been there if not for the pitching of the senior Fisher, who put on a classic duel with Desert Hills hurler Dallen Turner.
"Turner pitched a great game," Dixie second baseman Hobbs Nyberg said. "He did amazing. He really had us reaching for stuff. I don't think he could have pitched any better. And Tyson, man, that kid's got heart. I know he probably wasn't feeling 100 percent, but he left it all out there and gave us his all."
Fisher ended up with the complete-game victory, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out eight. Turner was up for the challenge, allowing just four hits and four walks while striking out 11 batters. The two teams combined to go 8 for 43 at the plate against the aces (.186 batting average).
The Thunder had two on in the top of the first after a double by Bo Barben and a one-out walk by Bronson Andrus. But Fisher got a pair of groundouts to get out of the jam.
The Flyers then loaded the bases on Turner in the bottom of the third after a pair of walks and a single by Reggie Graff. But Turner got three strikeouts in the inning to survive the threat.
The first two men were on for Desert Hills in the top of the fifth when Jaxton Reber and Jayden Peterson both singled. But Vest speared a hard liner hit by Landon Levine and gunned it over to third for a double play to help kill the potential rally.
"That was huge," Ipson said. "The thing I wanted was to have our best defensive lineup out there and with Cooper at first base, I felt it did that. That play and the scoop play earlier in the game were two plays that saved some runs for us."
It's the second straight state championship and eighth overall for the Flyers, who finish the season with a 27-3 record. Fisher, who picked up his seventh win of the year, retired the last seven batters he faced, including striking out the side in the top of the seventh.
Desert Hills finishes the year 21-8. Three of their eight losses were to Dixie.
Note: Vest, who pitched a shutout against Juan Diego in the semifinals, finishes the year with an earned run average of 0.26, which is the second lowest in the history of baseball in Utah.
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.