Class 1A baseball is fun again.

Last season, Wayne's three-year run of dominance ended when the Badgers had the second longest winning streak in state history halted at 57 games. Panguitch claimed the 1A baseball championship by beating Piute, which eliminated Wayne in the semifinals.

There was balance in 1A baseball in 2009, and there appears to be even more parity this season.

"The last two years several teams have had a chance, and that's what makes it fun," said Panguitch coach Clint Barney. "There were some years where Wayne was so dominant I'm not sure anyone else had any fun. Now there's uncertainty. More teams have a chance, and that makes the season a lot more fun."

Panguitch is among the teams with a chance to claim the state title this fall. The Bobcats return seven starters from last year, but have a huge void to fill with the graduation of 2009 MVP Brooks Leach. So far, returning all-staters Riley Miller and Cameron Fawson have helped carry the load for the Bobcats.

"I think our offense is as good if not better than a year ago," Barney said. "I think we'll get better with our pitching and defense."

The Bobcats have been pleasantly surprised with the production of first baseman Tyler Brinkerhoff, who Barney said has provided a steady bat in the team's lineup.

Panguitch split games with Piute in preseason tournaments and earned a key 12-10 league win over Wayne on Friday. Panguitch, Piute and Wayne will each contend for the Region 20 championship. Piute is led by one of 1A's top players in Kelton Price, while Wayne is led by Chris Manzanares, Randy Ellett and Brennan Rees.

Milford and Valley are also tough teams to beat in Region 20.

"It's a well-balanced, competitive region," Barney said.

West Ridge is the favorite to win Region 17 and has a legitimate shot at claiming the 1A crown. The Eagles beat Panguitch in a preseason tournament but suffered defeats against Valley and Wayne. West Ridge has been led by pitcher Niels Nicholas, who has a 4-0 record. Senior Tanner Heaton has paced the team's offense with two doubles and a home run.

Tabiona is probably the only team capable of beating the Eagles in Region 17. The Tigers are led by Wade Brown, who has three extra-base hits and three pitching wins in eight games, and Dane Rhoades, who has already recorded five extra-base hits.

Region 18 figures to be a two-team race between Green River and Wendover. The two teams split two games earlier this month. The Wildcats defeated the Pirates 5-4 on a walk-off double by Alex Zamora in the seventh. Green River won the rematch, 10-0.

Green River returns seven starters including all-state caliber players in Jason Johnson, Elias Polito, Justin Johnson and Holden Marshall. Justin Johnson has hit five doubles this season, which ties him for the state lead with Milford's Tyler Denny.

With so many teams looking strong so far this season, the 1A postseason should be interesting. The state quarterfinals are on Oct. 5 in Spanish Fork. The semifinals and championship will be played at UVU on Oct. 8-9.


1A baseball rankings

1. Panguitch

2. West Ridge

3. Wayne

4. Piute

5. Tabiona