ST. GEORGE – A year ago, the Desert Hills Thunder had to watch as Dixie celebrated its second consecutive state championship. The anguish was real, especially since the Flyers beat Desert Hills 1-0 on a suicide squeeze play in the bottom of the seventh inning.
This year, the Thunder weren't going to leave anything to chance. Desert Hills scored early and often and blasted the Flyers 16-3 in a mercy-rule-shortened game at Hurst Field, with Drew Thorpe collecting three hits and five RBIs to lead the way.
"This ... fuel, this fire comes from that loss last year," Thorpe said. "That was a heartbreaker last year, losing to them like that. We fought hard with them throughout region, but today we just came out ready to go. We were excited. This was ours all the way."
Dallen Turner, who was the losing pitcher in that 1-0 nail-biter last year, started again for Desert Hills – and gave up two runs in the first inning.
"I was trying to repeat my pitching performance from last year, but obviously I had some nerves and wasn't pitching as well," Turner said. "I was just hoping our offense could come out and get some runs, and they did."
Boy did they. Desert Hills came out in the bottom of the first inning and the first four hitters singled, with Thorpe knocking home Clayton Lott. Blake Milne then grounded out, but the hot shot brought home the tying run in Bo Barben, making it 2-2.
"That helped me out so much mentally," Turner said. "I was a little rattled after that first half-inning. Dixie hit some hard balls off of me. But after we got the lead, I really settled in."
Turner would not allow another hit until the fifth inning.
In the meantime, just about every Desert Hills hitter was having his way at the plate.
The Thunder added one run in the bottom of the second on an RBI by Bronson Andrus and then the floodgates opened in the third, with six more runners crossing the plate. Thorpe had a two-run single in the inning and Milne's RBI hit made it 12-2.
"Our guys were pretty locked in and focused on what they wanted the end result to be today," D-Hills coach Chris Allred said. "I told them going into the playoffs that I expected them to play their best baseball and they did. There was a different level of focus, a different level of intensity, and most importantly, a different level of confidence."
The offensive onslaught continued in the bottom of the fourth inning. Levine led off with a solo home run, followed by a double by Reber. Thorpe came through with a two-run single later in the inning to up the advantage to 16-2.
"When they got up 2-0, I thought, oh man, this is going to be a tight game," said Andrus, who had three hits and three RBIs in the game. "But we got five hits and five runs in that first inning and that was huge, a big momentum swing. The coaches had us ready. Everyone hit the crap out of the ball."
Dixie marched four different pitchers out to the mound, but none of them could slow the steady flow of Thunder runs.
"I probably didn't think this game would end up like it did, with a mercy-rule win, but it was a dream come true," Andrus said.
Dixie did finally get to Turner in the top of the fifth, as Blake Oaks singled home BB Blanchard. But the Thunder defense, which was excellent all game, turned a 6-4-3 double play to end the game and spark a dogpile in the infield.Comment on this story
"I've been thinking about that loss in the championship game all year," Turner said. "I kept the article on my phone and I'd always look back at it and say I want to get back there and win it this time. That really motivated me and motivated this team. It was fuel for our fire and it's such a great feeling for all our hard work to pay off."
Desert Hills finishes the year with a 27-3 record. The Thunder went 5-0 in the 4A state tournament, outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 38-10.
Dixie ends the season 25-5.
A Region 9 team has won the state baseball title in five consecutive seasons and seven of the last eight years.