The 4A championship series is set.
Mountain Crest and Snow Canyon hit the diamond at Cate Field in West Jordan, vying for the chance to advance for an opportunity to claim a state championship. Mountain Crest handled Desert Hills with ease, and Snow Canyon played a defensive game to trounce Dixie.
The first game of the championship series will take place on Friday at 4 p.m.
Mountain Crest 13, Desert Hills 0
History from earlier this season would suggest that this game would be a favorable matchup for Desert Hills since the Thunder defeated the Mustangs by 10 runs on March 20. History, however, did not repeat itself Wednesday afternoon, as Mountain Crest flipped the script and defeated Desert Hills 13-0, ending the game in five innings.
Mountain Crest senior pitcher Jaden Jones, who started against the Thunder during the March meeting and struggled mightily, redeemed himself in a significant way with his performance the second time around.
In the first meeting, Jones allowed six earned runs, seven hits and walked four in just over three innings of pitching. But in Wednesday afternoon’s matchup, Jones threw two strikeouts, allowed no runs and only two hits while pitching in all five innings.
Mustangs head coach Stephen Hansen credited Jones’ bounce back success to the work he’s put in to get better.
“Jaden has just worked throughout the whole year to get ready for this situation,” Hansen said. “He put in a good 2½ to three months of work and it paid off for him tonight.”
Jones threw a strike on 56% of his pitches.
“I really didn’t care about the first game,” Jones said when asked how he mentally approached his second meeting with the Thunder. “I just didn’t let it get to me. I knew it was a new game and that I had been getting better throughout the season.”
The Mustangs obviously had improved significantly since the last meeting as they looked like the better team throughout.
“We’re definitely a better team now,” Hansen said, attributing much of the improvement to the impact of his fellow coaches on his coaching staff. “My coaching staff is unreal. The way they scout things out, our pitching coach, our hitting coach, just everything. They’re locked in, putting our guys in the right spot and they’re awesome.”
When asked if the fact that Mountain Crest only had to win one game to advance — Desert Hills had to win two — allowed them to play more loosely, Hansen said that that probably played a role in helping the Mustangs play so well throughout the game.
“I’m sure that did help a little bit, just knowing that this wasn’t a do-or-die type of game,” Hansen said, while adding that his team still viewed winning the game as a must-have. “But of course, we needed to come out and win this game because if it went to a second game, then anybody could win. But we did come out loose and ready to play.”
Through the first three innings, the Mustangs had scored five times the amount of runs they had scored over the entirety of the March game. Mountain Crest had eight hits and five runs against 4A’s best scoring defense, all before the fourth inning began.
But the first three innings paled in comparison to the performance the Mustangs delivered in the fifth inning. The Mustangs scored eight runs in the fifth inning and, after shutting out Desert Hills in the bottom of that inning, were able to trigger a mercy rule ending.
The Mustangs’ hitting gave the Desert Hills pitchers fits. After relieving its starting pitcher to start the fifth inning, Desert Hills went through three more additional pitchers in the fifth inning alone.
Mountain Ridge’s Kolmyn Foulger and Lance Welch recorded the game’s only extra base hits of the game in the fifth inning, with each recording two-run RBI doubles.
The dominating win secures the Mustangs a spot in the championship series and, according to Jones, they’re ready for it.
“I’m stoked,” Jones said. ”I don’t really care who we play, I know we’re going to win. I know we’re hitting crazy right now and I know my teammates can do it.”
Snow Canyon 3, Dixie 1
In the later game, the Warriors claimed the opportunity to play Mountain Crest in the best-of-three championship series by defeating rival school Dixie, who made it into the match by defeating Ridgeline 6-3 earlier in the day.
Snow Canyon used its strong defense and pitching to ensure that it didn’t have to play in a second game to get its shot at a state championship. The Warriors won 3-1, scoring three unanswered runs after conceding the first run of the game to Dixie in its first two at-bats.
Josh Atkins was the winning pitcher for the Warriors, throwing for six strikeouts and a 73% strike percentage, with just one earned run.
Snow Canyon’s Landon Frei delivered the highlight play of the game in the top of the second inning when he leaped to catch a line drive from Dixie’s Jaxon Mackelprang, and then flung the ball toward first base where he caught Luis Acuna off base for the double play.