RICHFIELD — If it's state tournament time, Kanab's baseball team must be playing its best ball of the season.
The Cowboys, gunning for their second straight 2A championship, took a big step toward repeating on Saturday. Kanab whipped North Sevier 14-1 in an elimination game and then squeaked by Region 14 champion South Summit 3-1 to advance to the winners' bracket semifinals on Thursday.
"We're peaking at the right time," said reigning 2A MVP Justin Orton. "We're going to be tough to beat."
Orton, Tyrell Reidhead, Dustin Reidhead, Dason Ott, Craig Brinkerhoff and the rest of the Cowboys made sure they were impossible to beat on Saturday.
Orton threw all six innings in Kanab's victory over North Sevier, which ended in six innings when Dustin Reidhead blasted a grand slam to make it 14-1. Orton then closed the Cowboys' win over South Summit when he entered in the seventh with no outs and a runner on first.
Orton developed the reputation as a big-game player while leading the Cowboys to the 2A title last season. Clinging to a 3-1 lead with the tying run at the plate, Kanab coach Mason Fox pulled Dustin Reidhead, who had thrown two solid innings, and turned to his ace.
"I knew who I was going to," said Fox.
And that's exactly how Orton, who retired three straight batters, likes it.
"I definitely like it on my shoulders," he said. "It just makes it fun, especially when your coach has enough confidence in you when you need those outs to call you and say, 'Hey, come do this.'"
Brinkerhoff, Dustin Reidhead and Orton combined to no-hit the Wildcats.
Tyrell Reidhead provided the day's most clutch hit. With Kanab and South Summit locked in a 1-1 tie in the top of the sixth, he blasted a double to the fence to make it 2-1. Payton Jesus then added an insurance run with an RBI triple.
"That was a huge hit," Orton said of Tyrell Reidhead's double. "It got us pumped up, too. Once the ball dropped, we're like, 'We got it now.'"
Tyrell Reidhead and Jesus got their clutch hits off of Denver Hansen, who suffered his first loss of the season.
The Cowboys showed that they're battle-tested, making all the important plays while winning their seventh straight state tournament game dating back to last year.
"We've been through some battles," Fox said. "Going through last year with these guys helped out a lot. And I feel like that's part of what these kids are — just tough kids. They're just not going to give up, and not going to give in."
Kanab picked up its eighth straight victory overall with the win over South Summit. The Cowboys will resume play in the 2A tournament at UVU on Thursday. South Summit will try and fight its way through the one-loss bracket, something Fox is happy he doesn't have to worry about.
"If you want to do some damage, you've got to come out of this first weekend with two wins," Fox said.