Jeff Leatherwood pitched Taylorsville to not only one win in Friday's finals of the 4A state prep baseball, but he came out in the second game and did more of the same, with the second-game performance propelling the Warriors to a 2-1 victory over Hillcrest and another Taylorsville 4A title.
Not bad for guy who just wants to be a collegiate third baseman. "Yeah, I hate to pitch," said the senior whose Friday outings combined for 12 innings, 10 hits and 12 strikeouts - all after spending two hours with team therapist and Leatherwood-heralded miracle-worker Larry Brown.The two-game pitching effort left old-timers racking their brains for better endurance records in Utah high school prep baseball, while Warrior Coach Ron Rushton preferred to merely gush. "I think that's the greatest pitching performance I've ever had," said Rushton, whose team captured their third 4A crown in four years after finishing as runner-up to Bountiful last season.
While Leatherwood was doing the near-impossible on the mound, Taylorsville was doing the near-impossible on paper, with the once-beaten Warriors needing to defeat the then-unbeaten Huskies twice Friday at Ken Price Park to win the title. And that's what they did, with the 2-1 nightcap before some 2,000 fans following a 14-3 five-inning (remember the 10-run rule) thrashing in the afternoon affair.
"We had to beat Hillcrest's two aces, and by golly, I'm proud of our team," said Rushton of his Warriors, who finished at 20-3.
Meanwhile, there were emotions of a different kind in the losers' dugout, as the 21-5 Huskies realized how close there were at one time to clinching the crown and how far away it really ended up being.
Somewhat overshadowed by Leatherwood's heroics was a stellar performance by Hillcrest pitcher Shawn Heiden, who held the Warriors to just two runs on four hits while throwing in the 80-plus-mph range throughout the game. Like his teammates, Heiden was choking back tears as he watched the Taylorsville postgame celebrations. "It's tough right now. We had a great season - now we just need to think about everything we did," said Heiden of the Region 2 champion Huskies, which finished 21-5 overall.
In the championship game, Taylorsville scored one in the bottom of the first with a bases-loaded, one-out sacrifice fly to center by Mark Sampson. The scored their other run in the second as shortstop Nic DeLuca - the other Warrior pitching ace who was warming between every inning in case he was needed - and Sampson hit consecutive two-out singles. DeLuca scored as Sampson's hit eluded the Hillcrest leftfielder.
Hillcrest threatened in the fourth, with a pair of singles putting runners at first and second with no outs. But the Huskies quickly closed out with a strikeout, a pick-off at first and a fly to the outfield.
In the fifth, the Huskies had Rob Heywood on first with a single as Jared Bills hit a high fly to short left - to be caught or dropped was the question. Sampson tried but missed, Heywood thrown out easily at second because he thorugh the ball was caught for an out.
Hillcrest did score its run in the sixth, with a pair of Taylorsville errors and a bunt setting up a run-scoring grounder by the Huskies' Brandon Bingham that was barely scooped up by a diving Shane Lyon. The Huskies could only flirt with a possible comeback in the top of the seventh as long fly balls were hauled in by Bill Van Ry, the Warriors' centerfielder who had MVP credentials himself after hitting the game-winning two-run homer Thursday and another three-run blast in Friday's early game helping to account for his two-game total of eight RBI.
Ironically, it was Hillcrest who had handed Taylorsville its first tournament loss when the two met in Wednesday's quarterfinals. But Taylorsville returned to hand the Huskies their two same-day losses in Friday's fianls.
Taylorsville 14, Hillcrest 3
In the opener, Hillcrest jumped off to a 2-0 start on a two-run, first-inning homer by Husky second baseman Jager Kimura, who culminated his home-run trot around third with a flip in front of the Warrior dugout. Taylorsville admittedly took immediate exception by taking it out on the Huskies.
"I think it hurt them in the long run," said Leatherwood of the makeshift showmanship effort.
The Warriors scored four runs in the second, two in the third and eight in the fifth. Van Ry drove in six runs himself on two singles and a three-run homer in the fifth. Meanwhile, Hillcrest proved to be as much of an enemy to itself by committing five costly errors.