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High school sports 20 for 20: Drywall and tile helping fill baseball void for Pleasant Grove senior Ernesto Lugo-Canchola

Senior left hander was expected to be one of the top contributors this season for defending 6A champion Pleasant Grove

Action in the Pleasant Grove versus Lone Peak 6A high school baseball championship game at the UCUU ball park in Orem on Friday, May 24, 2019.
Ernesto Lugo-Canchola, right, celebrates last year’s 6A state championship for Pleasant Grove.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Editor’s Note: For 20 days in April, the Deseret News will profile 20 elite high school athletes from the 2020 graduating class and how they’re coping with the premature end of senior life on and off the field.

PLEASANT GROVE — It’s tough for high school seniors to find normalcy right now, but roughly three times per week Pleasant Grove’s Ernesto Lugo-Canchola knows exactly where to find it — the mound.

His comfort zone is the diamond, and even though the UHSAA suspended high school sports back on March 12, he’s been able to find solace about every other day playing catch with catcher teammate Ty Johnson.

When the two meet up, the left-handed Lugo-Canchola said he throws his 35-40 pitch bullpen to keep loose in the event that high school sports resume after May 1. He’s optimistic that even though it will be a short season, he still believes he’ll be able to don a Pleasant Grove uniform at least one more time.

The mentality has helped him grind through a very difficult situation as Pleasant Grove isn’t getting an opportunity to defend its 6A state championship from last year.

“It was my last year, I was so excited. One of the leaders on the team,” said Lugo-Canchola.

As a junior last year, he was one of three primary pitchers for the Vikings as they marched to the 6A state title. He finished the season pitching 41 innings with a 1.17 ERA and 45 strikeouts.

In the state championship he got the starting nod, and finished with a no decision in the 5-4 win over Lone Peak. Two games earlier, he teamed up with Dillon Trane to no-hit Lone Peak in 12-0 playoff win. He pitched five of the no-hit innings, striking out seven.

“He was a key role for us winning the state championship. His performances in region and the state tournament were very dominant. The biggest games with the most to play for seem to get Ernie more focused,” said Pleasant Grove coach Darrin Henry. “His competitive nature makes him turn into a true warriors on the mound. He loves to compete and has been clutch for us so many times.”

More dominance is what the lefty was hoping for. Now he’s just throwing at an empty batter’s box, working on his two-seam fastball and curveball. They’re pitches he’ll continue to throw at the next level at Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore.

“They’re pretty successful out at Lane. They had a lot of guys that graduated to go onto D1. I’m hoping to go there for two dominant years and then move onto D1,” said Lugo-Canchola, who committed on Feb. 15 in the build-up to the spring season.

Around the same time Pleasant Grove played some practice games against Bingham, American Fork and Layton, and the players were rearing to go. Lugo-Canchola hasn’t faced live competition since.

Pleasant Grove didn’t play any games during the opening week of the season, with its first games scheduled to take place at the Red Rock Classic from March 12-14. It played one game on March 12, with Lugo-Canchola scheduled to start the next day against Spanish Fork.

Rain prevented Pleasant Grove from playing any more games at the tournament, and COVID-19 has prevented it from playing any games since.

Lugo-Canchola said coach Henry’s message heading into the break has helped him stay optimistic and focused.

“He said think of it as a little break, a little more time to grind out. He encouraged us to hit the weights more and get individual work in, and have the mentality and the thought that we will be playing eventually and have the same goals,” said Lugo-Canchola.

In addition to his daily workouts and schoolwork, Lugo-Canchola has kept himself pretty busy the past couple works doing tile and drywall work with his stepdad. He said he mostly works in the summer, but he’s had a lot of free time and last week estimated he worked 40-plush hours.

“At first it was just to get some extra hours, but as I kept working it kind of took me away from everything,” said Lugo-Canchola.

Eventually he hopes everything returns to normal and he can hang out with teammates on the diamond again, but unfortunately that might be with his college teammates next year.