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Juan Diego, Grand are favored

2 teams boast a lot of talent and some adversity

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Juan Diego and Grand played for the state championship a year ago, and with both teams returning most of their players, there was no reason to think this year would be any different. That is, until about a week ago.

The teams had cruised through the regular season. Both teams were doing exactly what was expected of them — winning.

Grand's superstar Steve Hirschfeld was nearly unhittable and drawing so many major league scouts that coach Mike Steele had to leave a message on his cell phone about the pitching rotation.

Juan Diego was relying on reigning MVP Evan Hibler and returning all-state selections Craig Lanzarotta and Ben Dino.

Then the playing field got a little more even.

Hirschfeld hurt his arm against Juab on March 29. He continued to bat as a designated hitter until last week when he was diagnosed with a stress fracture just below the elbow. He underwent season-ending surgery.

Juan Diego coach Mike McNary, who led his team to a title a year ago, was placed on a paid suspension pending an investigation into an incident that occurred on April 16 on a road trip to Nephi.

Both teams dealing with adversity, but still the teams to beat.

One look at the 2A rankings, and it is easy to say that Region 14 boasts the cream of the crop. Besides Grand and Juan Diego, Juab is one of the co-favorites going into the tournament. Unfortunately for the Wasps, they lost the coin toss and were designated as the No. 3 seed from Region 14.

"We felt like we deserved more, but what can you say about Grand and Juan Diego, they are both great teams," said Juab coach Tony Sperry. "We still consider ourselves the No. 1 seed going down to Gunnison, and hope to prove it on the field."

The Wasps split the series with both Grand and Juan Diego, and they held a lead against both in the games they lost. "We go 10 deep at the plate with players that can all put the ball in play. Zac Diamond is throwing as well as anyone in 2A, and defensively we are making plays now that we didn't make at the beginning of the year," said Sperry about why his team can bring home the title.

In the upper bracket, Juab will have to get past Beaver, and then will likely face Region 12 champion Gunnison. The Bulldogs were led to the title by several key players including Eric Nay and Kurtis Jensen.

For the lower bracket, Grand, which got the Region 14 two seed after the tie-breaker, and Parowan are likely to play each other. Parowan finished second in Region 13, and because of an alternating schedule, gets to host the first round games. The Rams expect Colton Ray, Trever Smith, Jake Warren and Stephen Burton to continue leading them.

Juan Diego will have to beat a competitive Richfield team, but luckily for the team, it gets to host the games.

Enterprise surprised teams this year and came away with the Region 13 crown. Lance Jones has proven to be a clutch hitter, and the Wolves are trying to earn what they feel has been a lack of respect all season.

It is time to throw out the records, and region placements no longer mean anything. Starting Saturday, it is time to determine the 2A champions.

E-mail: mblack@desnews.com