From a tournament that has been known to distinguish itself by weak pitching and double-digit scoring comes the latest rage in Utah prep baseball: pitching.
This year's 4A tournament began Monday, showing more dangerous arms than Libya. Hillcrest's Mike Jolley gave up just five hits and went nine full innings to beat Granger in a 2-1 thriller. Roy's Ryan McCloy held Cyprus to just four hits in the Royals' 2-0 victory. And Brighton's Jason Ayala struck out 17 batters and threw a one-hitter in the Bengals' 5-0 shutout of Bountiful.
Even the losers were having fine outings. Granger's Shane Warenski limited Hillcrest to eight well-spaced hits, two of them in the final inning. Cyprus's Brad Rammell allowed just four hits and struck out 12 Roy batters - and still lost. "This is the best pitching I've ever seen in the state tournament," said Granger Coach Mike Folster.
And so the first day of the tournament belonged to the arms, not the bats.
The tournament continues Tuesday with Bountiful and West Jordan slated to meet at 11:30 a.m.; Cyprus and Granger at 2 p.m.; Taylorsville and Brighton at 4:30 p.m. and Roy and Hillcrest at 7 p.m. All games are at Ken Price Park in Murray. Hillcrest 2, Granger 1
Hillcrest, winner of the Region 2 tournament, had to go two extra innings before edging Granger, the No. 3 team in Region 3. The Huskies got runners as far as third base in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, but were held at bay by Warenski.
Finally, in the last of the ninth, the Huskies broke through. Darren Milne led off with a single and moved ahead on Chris Arambula's hit, to third on Sean Olsen's walk. Then Bryan Swapp lifted a fly to short right field, but it was long enough to score Milne with the winning run.
"There's no pressure now," said Hillcrest Coach Bob Johnson. "The pressure was there against Cottonwood when we had to beat them in the inter-regional game (to get to the state tournament). This is just for fun."
Jolley, who moved his record to 8-2 and put the Huskies' mark at 18-3, produced one of the game's most important fielding plays, as well. With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the ninth, he picked up a short Joe Trujillo grounder and backhanded the ball to catcher Jared Bills for the force-out. He then struck out Craig Van Worerkom to end the inning with three baserunners stranded.
"I didn't even think about it," said Jolley. "It was just a natural reaction."
Johnson's reaction to the play was praise r and relief. "A great play," he said. "Besides, Mike's not the best fielder in the world." Brighton 5, Bountiful 0
Ayala's biggest friend - and enemy was his right arm. Besides striking out 17, he threw more some 130 pitches in seven innings, walking seven. But he struck out three straight batters with the bases loaded in the seventh to preserve the shutout.
The only hit he allowed was a ringing single to left by Jim Larson. Roy 2, Cyprus 0
McCloy struck out five Pirate batters and John Willender homered in the third to lead the way. The Royals added a run in the sixth on an RBI single by Justin Mansfield. Taylorsville 11, West Jordan 4
The Warriors got homers by Bill Vanry and Justin Stanley and Mark Sampson had four hits to provide the day's only heavy run total.