It was a youth movement Friday night at the 4A State Baseball Tournament here at Bruce Hurst Field in St. George.
And there may not be two better sophomores in the state than Crimson Cliffs slugger Trey Evans and Mustangs pitcher Steele Barben. The two youngsters starred for CCHS in an 8-7 victory over Snow Canyon in Game 1 of the best-of-3 championship series.
Evans socked a 3-run homer in the bottom of the fourth to break a 4-4 tie and Barben struck out eight Snow Canyon batters in 4 1/3 brilliant innings of relief in the Crimson Cliffs victory.
“I was just going up to the plate and trying to get some momentum going,” said Evans, who hit .448 this season with 16 extra-base hits. “I wasn’t necessarily trying to hit a home run. I was just going with the pitch and trying to hit it hard somewhere.”
The ball carried well over the 340 sign in right center (opposite field!) and put the Mustangs ahead for good in the contest.
It had been a back-and-forth affair before that. Crimson Cliffs led 3-1 early on the strength of an RBI triple from Jayger Baldwin and back-to-back RBI hits from Ty Maynard and Jayz Estridge.
Snow Canyon climbed back into the game with a run in the second and two more in the third to take a 4-3 lead.
Enter Barben, the 10th grader with the knee-buckling curve and high-80s fastball.
“The dude’s straight up a competitor,” CCHS coach Justin Abbott said. “There was no doubt in our mind as a coaching staff who the next guy coming out on the mound was going to be. The fact that he wanted the ball made it even better. He did a fantastic job of getting our guys back in the dugout. I’m so proud of him.”
Barben entered the game and almost immediately quieted the powerful Snow Canyon offense. He ended up tiring in the seventh and gave up a big hit to Warriors outfielder Sam Lindsey, but before that he had gone through a stretch where he retired nine straight batters, striking out six of them.
His final line was 4 1/3 innings pitched, four hits and two earned runs allowed, one walk and eight strikeouts.
A key moment in the game came in the bottom of the sixth when the Mustangs executed a double steal to make it 8-4. Evans broke from first with speedy Logan West at third. Evans stopped halfway, enticing SC pitcher Ryker Gates to throw to second to get the out. When he did, West broke for home and beat a high throw to provide a crucial insurance run.
That extra tally proved to be the difference in the end.
“Coach gave me the signal and I knew it was going to be the right play. We really needed that run” Evans said. “I just tried to get in a pickle and get the run home before I got tagged out. It was a big insurance run.”
The Mustangs got three hits from Estridge and two from West in the win. Crimson Cliffs, 22-4, now needs just one win Saturday to hoist the championship trophy. Snow Canyon, 22-11, will need to beat the Mustangs twice on Saturday to defending its 4A crown. Game 2 of the best-of-3 series is slated for noon, with an if necessary game to follow.