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Panguitch setting sights on a state baseball title

Bobcats have unfinished business after losing in the title game last year

St. Joseph's Oliver Del Carlo applies the tag on West Ridge's Anthony Photesen during Class 1A action last month.
St. Joseph's Oliver Del Carlo applies the tag on West Ridge's Anthony Photesen during Class 1A action last month.
Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News

It's been nearly a year since Waterford shocked heavily favored Panguitch 10-7 in the 2004 Class 1A State championship baseball game, which snapped a 31-game winning streak by the Bobcats.

Since then, realignment has pulled Waterford away from Class 1A and Panguitch has been busy replacing five stars from its state-finalist team.

But Panguitch coach Clint Barney still can't get the bitter defeat out of his mind.

"It's haunted me," Barney said. "There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about that game. I hate to admit that because I don't want Waterford to know what they've done to me.

"But . . . it was devastating to lose last year. I really thought we were the best team. Of course, Waterford thinks differently."

In the absence of their new-found rivals, Barney and his players will be aiming to take out their frustrations from a year ago on the rest of the 1A field.

"You don't forget something like that until you get back," said Barney. "We're fighting really hard to get back in there again."

Because No. 2 Panguitch graduated so many talented players from last year's team, some figured the Bobcats might struggle in 2005.

Instead, it's been more of the same for the Bobcats, who won the 2003 state title in addition to finishing second last season.

"We've been able to plug guys in there," said Barney, "and we didn't miss a beat."

Barney has worked on creating a solid youth system in Panguitch, something that's helped the high school maintain prominence in 1A baseball.

"We pride ourselves in having a good youth program," said Barney. "We feel we can be strong year in and year out."

Center fielder Kyle Bateman took over the position from his brother Justin, who graduated last year. Younger brother Josh Bateman has taken over at third base.

New players like the Batemans have given the Bobcats a different look. This year they've been quicker and faster, which has allowed for more bunting and stealing.

The new starters have molded themselves around Zac Orton, Cameron Leach, Mark Boshell and Tyler Pollack, who all returned from 2004.

With region play winding down and the state tournament inching closer and closer, here's a region-by-region look at 1A baseball:

REGION 15: It's a new season, but the top of Region 15 looks just like it has over the last several years — with Panguitch staring down at everyone else.

With the conclusion of the league schedule coming fast, Panguitch is getting closer to another region championship. It would be its fourth-straight league crown.

Behind the Bobcats, No. 5 Wayne looks to wrap up second place. Even though the Badgers are getting little attention, the team could be a sleeper squad at the state tournament.

Piute looks comfortable in the league's final playoff spot.

REGION 17: When Josh LeRoy took over as St. Joseph's baseball coach, his team went 4-8. Just four years later, the Jawhawks sit atop Region 17 and have a legitimate shot at winning the state title, too.

"To go from (being 4-8 to where we are now)," said LeRoy, "it's a huge testament to our players."

St. Joseph's talented trio of pitchers leads the team. Carl Ward, Dan Stoeckl and Eli Kenny have provided sound leadership for the Jawhawks and all three are tremendous hitters, too.

Behind those three, others have been stepping up for No. 1 St. Joseph, including four freshmen starters. Oliver Del Carlo, Sawyer Kenny, Taylor Gallegos and Logan Forever should provide the team with a solid core for next season and beyond.

For St. Joseph to win its first region championship in two decades, it'll have to get past No. 3 West Ridge this Friday. Both teams have one loss in Region 17.

West Ridge has been on the heels of St. Joseph all season and it looks like they'll also contend for the state championship. The Eagles have an outstanding pitcher-catcher combination in Wade Whitely and Anthony Turnbull. That battery is probably tops for the entire classification.

Tabiona could also figure at the state tournament, though they'll probably have to play Panguitch in the opening round.

REGION 18: From top to bottom, Region 18 looks weaker than it's traditionally been.

But that doesn't mean Wasatch Academy isn't a legitimate contender for the state title. That's because the Tigers have handed St. Joseph its only defeat and have tied against Panguitch.

They'll clinch the Region 18 title if they can win one of two games over Wendover this Friday.

First baseman Andy Smith and Gordon Deason have helped lead Wasatch Academy, in addition to Adam Gockley and Charlie Josi.

Coach Harold Smith said the Tigers are the best offensive team he's ever coached.

"I've never seen a team hit like these guys," said Smith.

Dugway looks like it will finish solidly in second place, while Manila and Tintic fight for the final playoff spot.

1A baseball rankings

1. St. Joseph

2. Panguitch

3. West Ridge

4. Wasatch Academy

5. Wayne


E-mail: drasmussen@desnews.com