I really think there’s six to eight teams that are capable of winning this thing. There’s absolutely a good number of teams that could win this thing, and just about every round is going to be extremely tough for everyone. – Cottonwood head coach Jason Crawford
There's a definite favorite in most coaches' minds for the 5A state baseball playoffs, which are slated to start Tuesday, although the favorite isn't an overwhelming one.
Such a scenario is somewhat surprising considering Cottonwood's resume, but less so considering what the defending state champion is up against.
"I really think there's six to eight teams that are capable of winning this thing," Cottonwood coach Jason Crawford said. "I guess we're the favorite in some eyes, but there's absolutely a good number of teams that could win this thing, and just about every round is going to be extremely tough for everyone."
The Colts (22-3) are the No. 1 seed out of Region 7, although they finished tied with Jordan (19-6) for first place in region, which provides a glimpse of how competitive things could prove in the playoffs. Crawford's team did as much relying on a largely young team that has developed into a team worthy of favored status.
"It's time to quit calling ourselves young and inexperienced, as we've now been through an entire regular season together," Crawford said. "But I'm proud of this team and how they've come together. It's a different team than last year, but a team I think can go far if we keep playing like we have."
Cottonwood will take on Wasatch (12-13) in the first round of the double-elimination tournament while Jordan will open versus Provo (13-12.)
Earning the No. 1 seed out of Region 8 is Skyridge (19-6) with defending 4A champion Timpanogos (17-8) finishing second.
"Our No. 1 goal this season was to win our region, and then whatever happens in the state tournament happens," said Skyridge coach Ryan Roberts. "Last year no one thought we'd win much of anything, and we were able to sneak up on some people, but this year, teams probably know better of what kind of talent we have here, and that's an exciting thing."
The Falcons will open tournament play taking on Brighton (14-11) while Timpanogos will work to get past Corner Canyon (15-10) in its first-round matchup.
"Every game is going to be tough in this tournament, and yeah, there's a lot of great teams, which certainly includes Timpanogos, with how quality of a team they are," Roberts said. "I don't know much of Viewmont, but their record and what they've done is certainly impressive, and then you have Olympus, and wow, they've had as good a run as anybody."
Viewmont (16-6) is the No. 1 seed out of Region 5 and will open play versus Highland (14-11) while Olympus (23-2) will match up against Bountiful (7-18) after finishing out the regular season with 20 straight wins.
"We have a lot of great seniors leading us. We have 15 of them, and every single one of them have contributed in meaningful ways to the team," said Olympus coach Brent Burton. "So our experience has been huge for us. We've really benefited from a lot of quality starting players, but also quality depth behind those starters."
Overall, Burton assesses the tournament much like everyone else.
"When you have two returning state champions, in Cottonwood and Timpanogos both playing about as well as they did last year — that's a tough tournament, just with those two," Burton said. "But there's so many other tough teams. Whoever wins this thing will earn it, and we're looking forward to see what happens."
Tournament play begins Tuesday and concludes on May 25.