ST. GEORGE — George Strait used to sing, “You’ve got to have an ace in the hole,” and boy did Crimson Cliffs have a winning card Saturday.
Big left-hander Beau Sampson pitched six scoreless innings and the Mustangs finished a two-game sweep of Snow Canyon 6-0 to capture the 4A state baseball championship here at Bruce Hurst Field.
Sampson, a junior, got plenty of defensive help with notable plays by Petey Soto and Jayger Baldwin, but the lanky lefty did the rest himself, holding the hot-hitting Warriors to just two base hits and never allowing a runner past second base.
“I just wanted to go out and throw strikes, especially when we got that early lead,” Sampson said. “I had pretty good stuff and knew I could trust my defense.”
Aaron Morris came on and pitched the seventh to close out the contest. When the final batter bounced out to Jayz Estridge at first, the Mustangs rushed the field and dog-piled Sampson and Estridge.
“No better feeling in the world,” Baldwin said. “I was nervous at the start of the tournament, but once we settled down and started playing, I felt good about our chances, especially with the way Beau was dealing.”
Sampson allowed two on with one out in the top of the first inning, but Soto stabbed a hard-hit grounder up the middle by Isaac Lyon.
After laying out for the ball, Soto leapt to his feet, stepped on second and then fired to Estridge at first for a double play.
It set the tone for the Mustangs and the Warriors throughout the day.
In the fourth inning, Baldwin tracked down two deep fly balls in foul territory for outs. On the first, a shot by Lyon, Baldwin sprinted to the ball, made the catch then crashed into a 3-foot tall concrete wall.
“I knew it was coming and braced myself, but I had to make that catch,” Baldwin said.
Crimson Cliffs made a statement offensively early in the game. After Soto’s phenomenal defensive play ended the top of the first, the speedster led off the bottom of the first with a double down the left field line.
Two outs and one walk later, Ty Maynard ripped a liner to right field that scored Soto and Trey Evans and made it 2-0.
The Mustangs plated two more in the first on bases-loaded RBI walks from Tate Maynard and Logan West. and after one it was 4-0.
Meanwhile, Sampson was busy baffling the Snow Canyon hitters. The Warriors were averaging 10.7 runs per game in the state tournament but had zero extra-base hits off of Sampson and seventh-inning reliever Morris.
“There was never any doubt who would be pitching in this game for us,” Crimson Cliffs coach Justin Abbott said.
“Beau has grown so much mentally and emotionally this past year. He was absolutely the right guy for the job.”
Crimson Cliffs added insurance runs in the second on an RBI single from Trey Evans and the fourth on another RBI walk from Tate Maynard.
Evans had an amazing state tournament. The sophomore slugger hit two grand slams and finished with 17 runs batted in during the course of the Mustangs five-game run to the title.
“I just wanted to go to the plate and see the ball,” Evans said. “I’m so glad I could be part of this team and this season.
“I just wanted to help out, and words can’t describe how good Beau Sampson was today.”
Another hitting star was Estridge, who reached base safely in six consecutive at-bats (five hits, one walk) during the two-game championship series.
“Everyone contributed to this title,” Abbott said. “Amazing assistant coaches, great support from the dugout and the hitters one through nine.
“I’m so proud of them.”
The Mustangs finish the year with a record of 23-4 and swept all three matchups with Snow Canyon. Crimson Cliffs averaged 12.4 runs per game in five games in capturing the state title.
The Warriors went 4-3 in the state tournament, eliminating region champs Bear River and Dixie, and finish the year with a record of 22-12.