Whether they were on the mound, behind the plate or in the batters box, this year’s four 2016 Deseret News baseball MVPs delivered in the clutch when their teams needed them most, leading their respective teams to state titles.
Here’s a closer look at all four:
Mick Madsen, American Fork
Mick Madsen was the ultimate gamer for American Fork this season, and that was never more evident than during the last five games of the state tournament.
The senior didn’t start any of those games, but he came on relief in four of the five and almost single-handedly willed the Cavemen to the 5A championship.
He was at his best in the second 5A championship game against rival Lone Peak at UVU. After pitching Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Madsen’s coaches knew it was unrealistic to expect him to pitch a complete game on Friday — but they wanted him on the mound at the end of the game nonetheless.
After Travis Johnson pitched the first two innings, Madsen came on in relief in the third, and even though he allowed five runs on six hits, he got six timely strikeouts as American Fork ground out a 13-9 win over Lone Peak.
“He gutted it out. I can’t say enough about his leadership and all the seniors and their leadership,” said American Fork coach Jared Ingersoll.
Earlier in the week he pitched three innings of relief to get the win against Lehi, and then pitched two-thirds of an inning in a loss to Lone Peak that dropped American Fork into the one-loss bracket.
The following night in an elimination game against Cottonwood, he came on in the top of the seventh with a 6-2 lead — but with the bases loaded and one out. There were a couple of runs scored on a fielder's choice and throwing error, but he didn’t allow a hit to earn the save.
“He wants the gameball. He did a great job, and the way he competes on the mound and plate is awesome,” said Ingersoll.
Madsen finished the year with 81 strikeouts and a 3.00 ERA. At the plate he was just as important with a .350 batting average, two home runs, 34 runs and 17 RBIs.
Tyler Cornish, Timpanogos
The T-wolves were a deep, talented team this season, a big reason they had a terrific regular season and then went on to win the 4A title. Their ace pitcher, Tyler Cornish, was at the heart of everything Timpanogos did. That was never more evident than in the second week of the state tournament when he picked up victories in a pair of elimination games.
A great work ethic helped make it all possible.
“He really wasn’t our best pitcher for most of last year, but the work he put in last summer and fall and winter just gave him a lot of confidence that made him that much better this year as a junior,” said Timpanogos coach Kim Nelson.
He conveyed that with body language on the mound. Whenever a situation could’ve rattled him on the mound, as a junior this year he had the confidence and maturity to pitch his way through it.
“He’s not a real rah-rah cheerleading type guy, but I really think the team could look to him for leadership with how hard he works. Hopefully that can happen one year,” said Nelson.
He finished the season with a 9-2 record and a 2.02 ERA.
Nelson said Cornish’s best performances of the season came when his team needed him most. In an elimination game against potent Salem Hills, he struck out five and allowed eight hits as the T-Wolves dominated en route to the 8-2 victory.
Two days later after Timpanogos rallied past Orem to force the “if necessary” second 4A championship game, Cornish pitched three superb innings on short rest to get his team off to the start it needed.
Cornish only struck out one batter, but he didn’t allow a walk and pitched out of a couple jams, and when he exited the game, Timpanogos was comfortably ahead 10-1.
“It was important to get on top of that game like that,” said Nelson.
Cornish doesn’t have an overpowering fastball, but Nelson said he can throw three pitches for strikes, which always helps him after falling behind in counts.
Cornish was also one of Timpanogos’ most consistent hitters as he finished the season with a .402 battling average with 12 doubles and 31 RBIs.
Dakota Donovan, Pine View
Dakota Donovan has been one of the most dominant pitchers in 3A the past couple years, so it was killing him to not being on the mound in the 3A championship game.
He pitched six innings two days earlier in a victory over Carbon, and Pine View coach Troy Wall informed Donovan he wasn’t going to risk putting him in too early — and certainly not until the Panthers were leading.
“He was a little ticked off at me ’cause he didn’t start or get in the game sooner,” said Wall.
That’s when Donovan delivered for the team and for himself. With Pine View trailing Cedar 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth, he delivered a two-out, bases-loaded single to give the Panthers the 4-3 lead.
That allowed the Oregon State signee to enter the game in the save situation and he retired six of seven batters to lead Pine View to its second-straight 3A title.
Donovan finished the season with five victories and two saves. He ended the year with 90 strikeouts and an eye-popping 0.66 ERA. He was also one of the best hitters in Region 9.
At 6-foot-6, Donovan was an imposing presence on the mound for Pine View, but Wall was just as appreciative for what he did in the dugout.
“This year, especially, he’s been a really big leader. He really stepped up in the dugout, vocally and just with his presence,” said Wall. “There were a couple games at the state tournament where there was an error or two behind him in a tight ballgame, and he’s the one who came in off the field and said, ‘lot of ballgame left’ and kept everyone positive.”
Wall has been coaching Donovan since he was 9 years old, and said he’s always been competitive. That determination is a big reason Wall believes Donovan will be very successful pitching in the Pac-12 at Oregon State.
“When he gets to where it’s a job and he’s got a pitching coach that he’s with every single day doing those things they want done, I think he can be very successful,” said Wall.
Kayson Bundy, Enterprise
When Kayson Bundy was a seventh-grader, he was a bat boy for the Enterprise baseball team that went on to win the state title in 2011. He already loved baseball, but that experience resonated with him.
Four years later as a junior in the 2A championship, Bundy was standing on second base as the potential tying run when Manti got the third out against Enterprise to clinch the title.
“That stuck with him for a year, and he was going to do everything in his power to make sure that didn't happen again,” said Kyle Bundy, Enterprise’s coach and his father.
During this year’s state tournament, that meant putting personal achievements aside.
Having already set the state career doubles record earlier in the season, Bundy went into the state tournament knowing he needed two doubles to tie the state single-season doubles record. He didn’t care.
“He changed his swing totally. He went back to a compact hitter and trying to go to base hits. He knew that record was on the line and he didn’t even try for it,” said coach Bundy.
Ironically enough he still recorded two doubles during the two-week state tournament to tie the state record with 21, but lifting the trophy is what mattered most.
He finished his career with 49 doubles, shattering the previous state record of 41 career doubles. He also finished second all time with 143 career hits. His named is etched in the top 10 state record book eight other times in a variety of categories.
The catcher ended this season with a .531 batting average, and was a whopping .684 during the state tournament.
“We always hear of players that had all the talent in the world, but didn't work to make them better. He was just the opposite. There were better kids that he played ball with early on, but he wanted to be the best, so he dragged me out most of the time to hit. He has always been extremely coachable,” said coach Bundy.
All of that contributed to the father and son sharing another state title.
James Edward is the Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org