Gunnison Valley clinched their ticket in tomorrow’s semifinal game with a 4-1 win over Beaver behind an all-time performance from senior pitcher Janzen Keisel. Keisel pitched a complete game without allowing an earned run and finished with a total of 15 strikeouts, two pickoffs, and a putout off of a sacrifice bunt. He recorded every single out through the first five and a third innings until a grounder finally got to the second basemen. He finished the game with another three strikeouts over last two innings.
“That kid works harder than the anybody I’ve seen over the seven years I’ve coached,” Gunnison coach Max Sanders said of Keisel. “He was prepared for this; he came in pretty hyped and Beaver’s a good team and he knew that coming in. It was his game to finish from the start.”
The Bulldogs first took the lead when Keisel hit a triple into right-center field in the bottom of the first inning. A wild pitch to the next batter would get him home and give his team an early two-run lead. The Beavers were able to get a run across in the third inning, but a quick response pushed the lead back to a pair before a sixth-inning run added yet another.
“Offensively, we were just trying to get on base. Our first five hitters all have a good shot to hit a gap, that is what we were going for and that is what he did,” said Sanders.
Beaver was able to get the tying run to the plate in the top of the seventh inning. With runners on the corners and just one out, they attempted to steal second base, but Creed Mogle was able to throw him out for a momentum swing that allowed Keisel to pick up his final strikeout of the afternoon to end the game.
Parowan also found their way to the semifinals behind a dominant performance from their pitcher. The Rams defeated Kanab 4-0 behind a complete game shutout from Shaydon Benson.
Benson and his teammates thrived all day in two-out situations. Defensively they were able to find a way to close each inning without allowing a run, but it is also where they scored all four of their runs.
With two outs and nobody on base in the bottom of the third inning, Nicholas Goodman was able to battle his way to a walk and then follow it up with a stolen base. Trevin Yardley then got a grounder up the middle to bring Goodman home. After a wild pitch got Yardley to second, Benson picked up a base hit on a full count that resulted in a second run. Similar events unfolded a few innings later when Benson brought in another two runs with a two-out double. He finished the game with three hits, the same number he allowed on the mound.
“Fighting with two strikes or with two outs has been one of the things we have tried to instill into our team DNA this season” said Parowan coach Jed Townsend.
Connor Robison made a couple of key catches in right field while Christian Bost caught a solid game from Benson. It truly was a full team effort defensively against a Cowboy team that had scored eight runs against them just a month ago.
The two wins set up a clash on Friday afternoon between the Rams and Bulldogs. Both teams’ ace pitchers went well above the 60-pitch limit that would have allowed them to throw later in the tournament. With the aces gone, pitching depth becomes the primary focus in deciding who will bring home the state championship over the next few days.
When asked about this, Townsend commented, “Our coaching staff has worked really hard at developing a deep pitching staff. I think our team has done a good job all season long with carrying a balanced workload on the mound. We’re confident in our arms from our seniors down to our sophomores. Pitching depth is a huge factor in the state tournament. This format requires a team to have a deep pitching staff, and our approach is to follow the old cliche ‘next man up’ approach. I’ve had players asking for the ball in big situations all season. We love that competitiveness.”