They’ve been aggressive, but they haven’t swung at bad pitches. If one guy isn’t doing it, someone else is picking them up. The camaraderie has been really great. —Jordan coach Chad Fife
OREM — For the first time in over a decade, the final day of the high school baseball season on Friday will be void of teams from Utah County.
When Jordan faces Olympus for the 5A title at 11 a.m. at UVU, and Bingham and Riverton follow in the 6A championship at 1:30 p.m., it will be the first time since 2007 there isn’t at least one Utah County participant in the championship game of the state’s top two classifications.
Jordan beat Taylorsville for the 5A title back in 2007, and then Cottonwood beat Mountain Crest for the 4A title.
The following year in 2008 there was one Utah County team that played in a championship, and from 2009 to 2017 there were at least two Utah County teams in the finals every year.
The break from tradition gives several new programs a chance to play for the championship.
Friday’s 6A championship will be the first championship game appearance for Riverton in school history. Olympus, meanwhile, is appearing in its first championship since losing to Timpanogos in the 2002 title game.
Both programs had to survive through the one-loss bracket all week simply to get to this point.
Olympus’ march is something that rarely happens. Since losing in the first round of the 5A playoffs to Bountiful 5-2, the Titans have reeled off six straight victories (Corner Canyon, Skyline, Murray, Timpanogos, Cottonwood and Skyridge) to reach the final day of the season.
On Wednesday that included a 5-2 win over Skyridge. Jordan also beat Skyridge on Wednesday 10-3 in the winners bracket to advance to the first championship for the program since winning the title in 2014.
Both teams have their aces available on Friday.
Jordan ace Gage Edwards is 8-1 this season with a 2.59 ERA, and he’s 2-0 in the playoffs with wins over Provo and Timpanogos. The win over Timpanogos came on Monday, and he’ll be well rested for the championship. Edwards has been one of the best pitchers in the state the past two years and is one win away from ending it with a championship.
Olympus has leaned heavily on lefties Harrison Creer and Spencer Jones — two players who started on the Titans basketball state title team.
Coach Brent Burton said he’ll likely give the ball to Creer on Friday, as he’s the more rested of the two having pitched against Murray on Monday. Jones pitched against Timpanogos on Tuesday.
If the Titans hand Jordan its first loss in the double-elimination tournament at 11 a.m., the teams would meet at 4 p.m. for the winner-take-all Game 2. Jones would get the nod in that scenario.
“We’ve always said if we can get it back to our lefties, we’ll be competitive and be in a good spot,” said Burton.
Winning the championship after losing in the first round requires an eight-game winning streak. Two teams in the past six years have come close, but couldn’t quite get over the hump. In 2012 Timpanogos advanced to the 4A championship after losing its opener, and it then beat Skyline to force a Game 2 — which it lost in 10 innings.
Back in 2014 Pleasant did the same thing in 5A, and after beating Jordan in the first championship game lost to Jordan in Game 2 4-3.
Burton believes that with 15 seniors his team has the experience to get over the hump and win a baseball title for Olympus for the first time since 1960.
“When you have a senior-dominated team like we do, a lot of the players have a lot of experience, a lot of them played in the state tournament as sophomores and juniors,” said Burton.
Those 15 seniors will miss their own graduation as it’s scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Huntsman Center. The school held a “pep rally” graduation for them on Olympus’ baseball field on Thursday night.
Hayden Curtis has been Olympus top hitter all season as the senior is batting .489 with six home runs, 12 doubles and 38 RBI.
Jordan’s top hitter this year has been junior outfielder Kyson Stein. He’s batting .537 with 10 doubles and 26 RBI. He walked three times in Wednesday’s win over Skyridge.
Collectively, Jordan has been hitting the ball really well during the state tournament and coach Chad Fife hopes that approach continues.
“They’ve been aggressive, but they haven’t swung at bad pitches. If one guy isn’t doing it, someone else is picking them up. The camaraderie has been really great,” said Fife.
In 6A, Riverton’s march to the championship is nearly as impressive.
The ‘Wolves lost a close game to American Fork in the second round last Wednesday, but they have since won five straight, including a 6-3 win over the Cavemen on Wednesday to advance to the final.
“I’m extremely proud of them. They held together, we lost a tough one against American Fork, for them to be able to bounce back, stay together and perform like they have has been really cool to see,” said Riverton coach Jay Applegate.
Riverton lost to Bingham 11-0 two months in the preseason, but Applegate said that game was ages ago and has no bearing on the rematch.
“It was preseason, we were moving kids around, and the same with them, Bingham’s a lot better team than they were then, and I would say the same for us. It’s just the next game,” said Applegate.
Riverton had a three-man pitching rotation to start the year between Kody Nelson, Ryen Edwards and Dylan Sanchez, but Sanchez hasn’t been able to pitch the past month because of an injury.
Edwards got the win on Wednesday against American Fork, which means Kody Nelson is the likely starter against Bingham on Friday. He last pitched on Monday in a 4-3 win over Lone Peak.
Bingham coach Joey Sato will likely give the game ball to either Derek Soffe or Ethan Fowlks on Friday. If a second game because necessary, the other would get the nod in Game 2.
The Miners own a 13-1 record over their past 14 games, the Sato really likes how the team has come together the past month.
“We were playing decently before, we were just really playing really good competition. We take that time (in the preseason) to try and figure things out. It’s not about winning every game,” said Sato.
Since the games started counting in region play Bingham has been very tough to beat, and its one win away from its 22nd baseball state title in school history.
Soffe and Nick Burdette are Bingham’s leading hitters this season, both hitting over .400.
Riverton’s top hitter this season has been Sanchez, who is batting .455 with 14 doubles and 33 RBI. Edwards is batting .407 with 31 RBI.
Friday’s showdown between neighborhood rivals Bingham and Riverton is the first championship meeting in any sport between the two schools since 2005 when Bingham beat Riverton 61-59 on a buzzer beater in the boys basketball championship game.