For the 2021 Deseret News baseball Players of the Year, their ability to impact a game in a variety of different ways was unmatched in their respective classifications.
Whether they were on the mound, in the field, in the batter’s box or behind the plate, they got the job done and enjoyed fantastic seasons in the process, even though the final state championship eluded some of them.
Here’s a look at the 2021 Deseret News baseball Players of the Year.
6A Player of the Year
Cam Day, Layton, P/OF, Sr.
Whenever Layton ace Cam Day was the scheduled starter this season, the pro scouts made sure to be there with the radar guns.
They rarely left disappointed, too, as the University of Utah signee proved himself to be a lethal pitcher that few players could touch.
Day threw 76.1 innings this season, striking out 133 batters and posting a 0.40 ERA with an 11-1 record. At the plate, he was also a key contributor for Layton with a .351 batting average, six home runs and 33 RBIs.
Layton coach Robert Ferneau said Day’s commitment and dedication to both the team but also his own future goals in baseball were certainly fun to observe up close this season.
“Cam Day is as dedicated a player as I have ever seen. Cam has a goal to pitch in the big leagues, so he is working when others are sleeping or going out with friends. Cam never was out of control with his emotions even with the number of guns in the stands,” said Ferneau. “He loved his teammates no matter what happened on or the off the field. The ultimate team guy and did whatever I asked of him for the success of Layton High baseball. As Cam Day went, Layton baseball went.”
Day only walked nine batters this season, with opponents only batting .174 against him.
Back in April in a game against rival Davis, Day threw a six-inning perfect game in the 10-0 victory.
5A Player of the Year
Zac Dart, Spanish Fork, P/IF, Jr.
With as much parity as there was in 5A baseball throughout the regular season, it’s no surprise it continued into the playoffs as No. 7 Spanish Fork ultimately won the state title.
The steadying force throughout the entire season for Spanish Fork was without a doubt junior Zac Dart.
“He almost did everything for us. Zac’s performance on the field speaks for itself. He started on the mound at times. He was closer at times. He played 3B, 2B, 1B and DH for us, too,” said Spanish Fork coach Casey Nelson.
He could impact the game in all areas as well, finishing with a .360 batting average with 15 doubles, four home runs, 21 runs and 34 RBIs.
On the mound, he finished with a 5-1 record with a 3.70 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 33 innings pitched. Those pitching stats could’ve been much more eye popping, but an injury kept him from pitching for about five weeks beginning at the end of March. He was diligent in his rehab, though, to get back on the mound to help his team for the playoff push.
“Things you don’t see in a box score is what makes him a special player, too. Zac was one of our team leaders and would rally the troops when needed. He’s also one of the highest baseball IQ and overall IQ players I’ve coached. It’s fun to sit back and watch him do his thing. Zac is also a competitor and wants the ball and or bat in his hands in big situations. Zac carried our lineup most of the year and had some clutch hits for us throughout the year,” said Nelson.
4A Player of the Year
Mason Strong, Snow Canyon, C, Sr.
Snow Canyon catcher Mason Strong was basically an extension of the coaching staff this year, which coach Reed Secrist said made his job a whole lot easier than it might’ve been otherwise.
“We asked him to do a lot this year and to him it was second nature. He controlled our pitching staff, he knew each individual personally and knew what they had to offer that given day to make them successful. He called his own game,” said Secrist.
Whether it was during the regular season or over seven straight playoff victories, Strong was the catalyst to Snow Canyon’s 4A state title this year both defensively and offensively.
“Mason at the plate was consistent. To be able to do everything behind the dish for seven innings and continue to produce hitting in the four hole, leading the state or in the top few in most categories was incredible and for sure a reason we won the 4A state championship,” said Secrist.
Strong finished the season with a .478 batting average, a slugging percentage of .848 to go along with his 14 doubles, six home runs and 50 RBIs.
“Mason is an extremely intelligent baseball player and when you have that as your catcher it becomes incredibly easy to coach the entire team,” said Secrist.
3A Player of the Year
Dalin Ludlow, Juab, P/SS, Sr.
Juab only lost one game to a 3A foe prior to the state tournament, and while the timing of those playoff losses denied the program its first state title since 1998, they certainly didn’t detract from the dominant season from senior Dalin Ludlow.
Ludlow owned posted an 8-2 record on the mound with a 0.69 ERA and 91 strikeouts while at the plate batted .469 to lead the Wasps to the top seed for the 3A state tournament. Juab finished the season with a 24-4 record.
“Dalin is a four-year varsity starter who has worked extremely hard to improve his game each year. He is a fierce competitor with the drive to be successful on the mound, in the field, at the plate and in the classroom,” said Juab assistant coach Jim Rosenbeck.
“Dalin has always been an extremely talented fielder but he’s worked hard and put in the time to become an incredible hitter with power as well as a dominant pitcher for the Wasps.”
Ludlow could do it all offensively for Juab, finishing with 10 doubles, three triples, 34 RBIs, 38 runs and 29 stolen bases.
He’s signed to continue playing baseball in college at Minot State.
2A Player of the Year
Janzen Keisel, Gunnison, P/IF, Sr.
A player of Janzen Keisel’s ability doesn’t come around often, and they certainly are an anomaly at the 2A level.
Whether at the mound or the plate, Keisel was the most dominant player in 2A this season, and though the state championship trophy ultimately eluded him, he left a lasting impression on 2A baseball with his dominance.
In 12 games on the mound this year, he struck out 122 batters while only allowing five runs and 16 hits.
At the plate, he batted .591 with a 1.985 OPS and 11 home runs.
“Janzen was an extremely hard worker who put every ounce of himself into every single play. He practiced hard and refused to accept a mediocre performance whether he was on the mound or at the plate,” said Gunnison Valley coach Max Sanders. “He also led our team as a captain by example, never acting like he was too good to do small tasks to help our coaching staff and his teammates. Janzen was simply a privilege to coach and watch play the game, and he’s an even better person than he is a ballplayer, which is hard to believe given his abilities.”
Keisel has signed to play at BYU next year, but he also will likely get drafted in this summer’s MLB Draft, which could alter his future plans.