When their teams needed them the most, the 2018 Deseret News baseball MVPs delivered in the clutch, both on the mound and at the plate, in helping lead their teams to state championships.
This year's five MVPs as picked by the Deseret News are Bingham’s Derek Soffe, Jordan’s Gage Edwards, Dixie’s Hobbs Nyberg, Grantsville’s Brady Arbon and North Sevier’s Rocky Bringhurst.
The first team, second team and honorable mention selections were voted on by the coaches.
Here's a closer look at all five MVPs:
Derek Soffe, Bingham
When Bingham was shutout by Riverton during its first opportunity to win claim the inaugural 6A championship, there was absolutely no panic from the players. They knew ace Derek Soffe was taking the mound in Game 2, and that was a close to a guarantee as exists in high school baseball.
As the senior had done all year, Soffe was masterful on the mound plowing through Riverton’s line-up all seven innings earning the shutout victory and leading Bingham to its first title since 2013.
Soffe won three games in for Bingham, finishing the season with a 9-1 record and a 1.64 ERA. His ERA in the three playoff games was 0.97.
“He’s been important to us for two years, he’s been No. 1 on our staff and the kids play with just great confidence behind him,” said Bingham coach Joey Sato.
In the playoffs he pitched Bingham to a 15-1 win over Copper Hills and a 10-2 win over Davis before the championship game victory.
“We’re just a different team when he’s on the mound cause our kids are so confident in him. We haven’t seen a bad outing from him in the two years he’s on the varsity staff,” said Sato.
Soffe’s production at the plate matched what he did on the mound this year, which is pretty remarkable considering he didn’t hit at the varsity level last year. He only pitched.
As a senior he batted in nearly every game and he led Bingham with a .430 batting average to go along with his three doubles and 16 RBI.
In Bingham’s five playoff games he batted a remarkable .650, including a 2-for-5 performance in the same championship game he dominated on the mound.
Gage Edwards, Jordan
Jordan’s baseball team ended the season on a 19-game winning streak, a run that featured countless contributors along the way.
Gage Edward’s accomplishments on the mound during that stretch are ultimately what led Jordan to the 5A championship.
He went 3-0 in the playoffs for Beetdiggers, only allowing six runs in those three outings. In the championship victory over Olympus he was in a groove with his fastball and curveball, striking out five in the five-inning, 11-1 victory.
Edwards finished the season with a 9-1 record and a 2.50 ERA with 67 strikeouts.
“He was very intense. He’s a guy that put in work behind the scenes, getting to know who he was facing, whether it was studying spray charts or (stats). He was very prepared on and off the field,” said Jordan coach Chad Fife. “He knew he was going to win every time he took the field because he was prepared physically and mentally.”
Edwards said he was very amped in the championship game, but he channeled that emotion in a positive manner in the biggest game of his high school career.
Edwards will get to pitch at the next level as well having signed at Colorado Mesa University.
At the plate, Edwards made much more subtle contributions batting .500 with 64 plate appearance. He was used sparingly in the preseason, but during Jordan’s 19-game winning streak he batted .558 with 11 RBI.
Hobbs Nyberg, Dixie
In whatever sport Hobbs Nyberg has played at Dixie, he’s always shown tremendous competitive spirit. It was one of the underlying themes that helped carry Dixie to the 4A state championship according to coach Danny Ipson.
“He wants to come out and compete in whatever atmosphere that it’s in, whether it’s in a practice or game. That’s something that permeated through our program,” said Ipson.
Nyberg was Dixie’s leadoff hitter, and the BYU commit gave opposing pitchers fits all season with his .495 batting average and his .579 on-base percentage.
“It seemed like we were always in a position to put pressure on the other team with him able to get on base and start the game off with offensive pressure on the other team,” said Ipson.
Nyberg finished the season with 11 doubles, five home runs, two triples and 33 RBI. He was a terrific defensive second baseman as well, turning numerous double plays.
Nyberg always showed his willingness to do whatever it took to win. In the state championship game against Desert Hills, Dixie No. 9 hitter Blake Oaks led off the bottom of the seventh with a double.
Ipson gave Nyberg one opportunity to put a swing on the ball with a 2-0 count, but after that he instructed one of the best hitters in 4A to sacrifice bunt Oaks over to third. It denied Nyberg the chance to be the hero, but his rare sacrifice bunt paved the way for Dixie to suicide squeeze home Oaks one batter later to clinch the championship.
Brady Arbon, Grantsville
The calming presence Brady Arbon provided for his team was obvious, and a huge reason Grantsville claimed the 3A state title this season.
“Brady was our No. 1 pitcher and we relied on him to pitch in all the tougher games. More than anything, Brady brought a calm to our team and when he was on the mound everybody kind of knew we were going to win and be OK.”
That certainly proved to be the case. Grantsville won all 10 of Arbon's starts, with Arbon finishing the season with an 8-0 record and a 0.38 ERA.
In playoffs he pitched Grantsville to a 2-1 early-round victory over upset-minded South Sevier, and then in the quarterfinals he went the distance in a 6-0 win over Carbon.
He finished with nine strikeouts in the Carbon game, ending the season with 58 in 54 2/3 innings. He was able to locate his fastball extremely well all season.
Pitch count restrictions kept Arbon off the mound in the semifinals and championship, but he made contributions at the plate going a combined 3 for 7 with three RBI in those two wins.
Arbon finished the season with a .427 batting average with 12 doubles and 21 RBI. He was a terror at the plate in the second half of the season.
After batting .250 in the first 13 games as he struggled to make a quick transition after the basketball season, Arbon batted .634 in the final 14 games, including getting multiple hits in nine of those games.
Rocky Bringhurst, North Sevier
Rocky Bringhurst’s experience and leadership made him one of the catalysts in 2018 as North Sevier won its first state championship in school history.
Not only was he the ace on the mound, finishing with a 5-1 record and a 2.71 ERA, but Bringhurst also was second on the team with a .393 batting average and led the Wolves with 27 RBI.
“He was a great kid, great leader and great teammate,” said North Sevier coach Josh Robinson.
Three games before North Sevier ever won the state championship, Bringhurst recorded his most dominant pitching performance of the season in what was maybe the most important win.
In the preseason Beaver beat North Sevier 10-0, and when they met in the quarterfinals Beaver was the favorite again. The Beavers hadn’t faced Bringhurst in that first meeting though, and they seemed helpless to do anything against the ace in the playoff meeting as he struck out 13 batters and only walked one in the 3-1 win.Comment on this story
“We burned him the whole game against Beaver. We knew that was the most important game to stay in the winners bracket,” said Robinson.
As was often the case, Bringhurst’s presence on the mound raised the confidence of the entire team.
“The kids always seemed to play better behind him. We usually never had errors because they just knew he was going to go out and compete and play well and throw hard, and they were going to go do the same behind him,” said Robinson. “He had a sense of confidence about him that the kids fed off of and they really played well behind him.”