Desert Hills offense catches fire as Thunder survive elimination day

Desert Hills vs. Snow Canyon, Baseball, St. George, Utah, May 17, 2018, | Photo by Andy Griffin, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Desert Hills stepped out of the shadows and captured two huge elimination victories over two traditional powerhouses Thursday. The Thunder knocked out Spanish Fork 9-8 and then bounced Snow Canyon 18-2 at the 4A state tournament at Bruce Hurst Field.

“All year we’ve been hearing about how good these other teams are,” DHHS head coach Chris Allred said. “I think that gives the kids an edge so that they want to go out there and prove everyone wrong.”

There were three games at Hurst Field Thursday and all three involved Region 9 teams. It was a day of do-or-die, and Desert Hills came away the lone survivor. Here’s a recap:

Desert Hills 18, Snow Canyon 2

After laying an egg against Juan Diego Wednesday, a new team with a new attitude hit the diamond Thursday as the Thunder played perhaps their best baseball of the year.

“(Assistant) coach (Randy) Wilstead brought us in this morning and told us that the pressure was off, that we don’t have to worry about trying to be perfect, that we can just go out there and have fun and that’s exactly what we did,” said Thunder first baseman Brigham Gardner.

Of course, it’s always a lot of fun when the opportunity arises to beat a rival.

Desert Hills finished in third place in Region 9, four games behind Dixie and three back of Snow Canyon. But after a 5-1 loss to Snow Canyon in late April, the Thunder exacted revenge on the Warriors with a 4-3 win at home and are 7-1 since that loss.

File photo, Desert Hills’ Dallen Turner (3), Desert Hills vs. Copper Hills, Baseball, St. George, Utah, Mar. 8, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

“This team is resilient,” said Thunder pitcher Dallen Turner, who got the win Thursday night. “We definitely came out flat against Juan Diego. We didn’t play like we’re capable of playing. But when we play like we did today, we’re tough to beat.”

Thursday night’s elimination game against Snow Canyon didn’t exactly start right for Desert Hills. The Warriors got a solo home run by Austin Deming and another run came home on an error in the top of the first for a 2-0 lead.

But Snow Canyon, which had won three straight since opening the playoffs with a loss to Orem, had used up its regular pitching rotation and had to reach deep for young players against the Thunder.

As it turned out, those young pitchers weren’t quite ready for the spotlight. Desert Hills wasted no time in erasing the early deficit in the bottom of the first. Bo Barben doubled and Trey Allred singled. Drew Thorpe then singled to right to make it 2-1.

An error at first brought home Allred and tied the game. Two batters later, Gardner hit a sacrifice fly to center field to bring home Thorpe and make it 3-2. The first-inning onslaught continued as Sam Rhoton scored on an error and Jayden Peterson singled to bring in another run, making it 5-2. Allred and Thorpe each had their second single of the inning to bring in a couple more runs and when the dust had cleared, DHHS had scored eight runs on eight hits and two errors for the 8-2 lead.

With newfound confidence, Turner shut Snow Canyon down in the second and third innings. The Thunder then put the game away with three runs in the third and a big seven-spot in the fourth.

“I feel like when we have a lot of energy, we play well,” Trey Allred said. “We were a little bit flat against Juan Diego and that was a little bit of a bummer. Coach told us we could do one of two things: We could lay down and die or we could show them what we’re made of.”

The Thunder ended up with 18 runs and 18 hits in the game, plus took advantage of four Snow Canyon errors. Trey Allred had four of those hits, with Thorpe picking up three base knocks and four other Desert Hills players (Peterson, Landon Levine, Bronson Andrus and Jaxton Reber) rapping two each.

Snow Canyon, which finishes the year with a 26-5 record, had just five hits in the mercy-rule shortened game. Deming, who finishes his senior year at Snow Canyon with a batting average of .529, hit his ninth homer of the season and scored his region-best 38th run of the year.

Desert Hills 9, Spanish Fork 8

As fine a tradition as the Dons have had over the years, they just weren’t at their best. Sure, Desert Hills hit the ball hard and accumulated 11 hits in building a 9-1 lead. But six Spanish Fork errors also contributed to the lopsided advantage.

Drew Thorpe pitched the entire game, and he wasn’t at his best either. But the junior right-hander battled like a gladiator. An error contributed to a four-run fifth by the Dons that cut it to a 9-5 game. Spanish Fork then rallied for three runs on four consecutive hits in the bottom of the seventh to cut it to 9-8. After a visit to the mound by the D-Hills pitching coach, Thorpe threw his 109th pitch (110 is the max allowed in high school) to Spanish Fork’s Carson Chappell with the tying run 90 feet away. Chappell hit it hard – but almost straight up – and the shallow fly ball was gloved by Sam Rhoton to end the game.

“It was a battle to the very end,” Coach Allred said. “I’m proud of the way my guys swung the bats. They came out on a mission today. Nobody wanted to go home yet.”

File photo, Desert Hills’ Drew Thorpe (2), Desert Hills vs. Snow Canyon, Baseball, St. George, Utah, Apr. 27, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Gardner had an RBI double in the first and Thorpe bunted home a run in the third as DH had a 2-1 lead. The advantage soared to 7-1 in the top of the fourth as Levine singled home Blake Milne, then Thorpe followed with an RBI hit. The Dons committed two errors in the inning, including a dropped fly ball in right field, to contribute to the five-run rally.

In the fifth, Trey Allred seemingly put the game out of reach with a two-run double to make it 9-1. But the Dons climbed back in it with two two-run homers in the fifth and that rally in the seventh before Thorpe finally closed the door.

The Thunder, 20-7, are one of three teams remaining at the 4A tournament. Dixie and Juan Diego play in the state semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Friday, with Desert Hills taking on the loser of that game in an elimination contest at 7 p.m. at Hurst Field.

Snow Canyon 7, Pine View 5

It was a see-saw game all the way, with the Warriors getting the last laugh with two runs in the bottom of the fifth and an insurance score in the bottom of the sixth to eliminate the Panthers.

Snow Canyon went on top 1-0 in the first after a Pine View error opened the door. The Panther answered in the top of the seventh as Weston Sampson socked a two-run homer over the center field fence.

Pine View’s Cody Riddle (24) and Snow Canyon’s Austin Staheli (2), Snow Canyon vs. Pine View, Baseball, St. George, Utah, May 17, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

The Warriors snatched the lead back in the bottom of the third with three runs. Zach Nowatzke started it with an RBI fielder’s choice, then Stephen Gubler plated a pair with a two-out single to right field.

It was Pine View’s turn to go on top in the top of the fifth. With two on, Dawson Staheli socked a double over the center fielder’s head to make it a 4-4 ball game. Two batters later, Luke Green hit a hard grounder that was thrown away for a Snow Canyon error. Staheli scored on the miscue, making it 5-4 for the Panthers.

But in the bottom of the fifth, SC grabbed the lead for good. With the bases loaded and one out, Jed Jensen lined a single to left field that brought home Braden Baker. The next batter, Austin Staheli, hit a deep enough fly ball to sacrifice home Zach Nowatzke and put the Warriors up 6-5.

Cade Guerisoli scored on a wild pitch in the sixth to provide a little icing on the cake for the Warriors. Makai Lee picked up the win on the mound for SC, working two scoreless innings of relief of Deming. Gubler and Guerisoli had two hits each to lead the Snow Canyon offense.

Snow Canyon, which finishes the year with a 26-5 record, had nine hits in the game, all of them singles.

Pine View, which ends the year with a 16-9-1 record, got three hits from Tanner Staheli and two RBIs each from Sampson and Dawson Staheli.

Wednesday’s results
Dixie 4, Pine View 3
Lehi 4, Orem 3 (F/9) (Orem eliminated)
Spanish Fork 11, Sky View 0 (Sky View eliminated)
Juan Diego 5, Desert Hills 1
Salem Hills 6, Bear River 3 (Bear River eliminated)
Snow Canyon 6, Park City 2 (Park City eliminated)
Spanish Fork 10, Lehi 7 (Lehi eliminated)
Snow Canyon 3, Salem Hills 1 (Salem Hills eliminated)

Thursday’s results
Desert Hills 9, Spanish Fork 8 (Spanish Fork eliminated)
Snow Canyon 7, Pine View 5 (Pine View eliminated)
Desert Hills 18, Snow Canyon 2 (Snow Canyon eliminated)

Friday’s schedule of games
4:30 p.m. – 4A semifinal – Dixie (25-3) vs. Juan Diego (22-5) at Hurst Field
7 p.m. – Desert Hills (20-7) vs. semifinal loser (elimination game) at Hurst Field

Saturday’s schedule of games
11 a.m. – 4A championship at Hurst Field
1 p.m. – 4A championship 2 (if necessary game) at Hurst Field

UHSAA 4A bracket

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