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Making the most of it: Maple Mountain opens Last Chance Tournament with strong showing against Cottonwood

Orlando Corona is one of a trio of seniors for the Golden Eagles who are making most of things despite the massive disappointment dealt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maple Mountain’s Orlando Corona walks off the field after a game with Cottonwood during Last Chance Tournament in Spanish Fork on Thursday, May 28, 2020.
Maple Mountain’s Orlando Corona walks off the field after a game with Cottonwood during Last Chance Tournament in Spanish Fork on Thursday, May 28, 2020.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SPANISH FORK — Save your joke or bad pun, Maple Mountain’s Orlando Corona has heard just about all of it over the past couple of months.

Due to the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, otherwise known as the coronavirus pandemic, the senior left fielder for the Golden Eagles has received more than a few jokes at his expense.

“You can only imagine,” Corona said. “Every time I meet someone, you get that look, and I’ll probably have to deal with that for the rest of my life.”

The good news comes with Corona being exactly the type of kid who can brush it off and laugh at it, according to Maple Mountain coach Gary Miner, who raved about his senior leader.

“He’s a kid who has a great attitude and great character,” Miner said. “And I think you saw a bit of that today.”

Yes, Corona was out playing baseball on Thursday for the first time since the middle of March after the regular high school baseball season was abruptly cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The occasion on Thursday was pool play in the Last Chance Tournament, in which the Golden Eagles took on Cottonwood in the 10-team tournament.

The result was a 13-0 Maple Mountain rout of the defending 5A state champion Colts, with the game being shortened to just four and a half innings due to the mercy rule. The Colts weren’t allowed much of the workout time as the Golden Eagles, due to Utah County opening up practice restrictions much earlier than Salt Lake City and that disparity was apparent throughout.

Highlight hits came from Maple Mountain’s Nolan Byrd, who hit a 2-run double in the bottom of the second inning to extend the lead to 4-0, and Cole Rollins, who broke things open in the third inning with a bases-clearing triple.

“The offense was better than I expected,” Miner said. “We squared up some balls and it’s due to the kids. These kids have kept their heads up throughout all the uncertainty and disappointment, and you saw that today.”

Maple Mountain wasn’t able to practice officially as a team until just days before Thursday’s game, although just about all the players involved have made certain to use every workout opportunity provided.

“We were limited to just five guys on the field working out, so we made sure to go in shifts every day, and we stuck with it,” Corona said. “Just about everyone did the best they could with the limited workouts, and I think you saw the benefits of that today.”

Miner was quick to credit Corona for leading the work put in, along with fellow seniors Kason Winward and Christian Bainter.

“We have a really good core of seniors who really care and want to work, no matter what the circumstances,” Miner said. “When it all got shut down I told them that I was going to read in the paper in late May, or whenever games may happen again, about a kid who just fought through it and worked and worked and worked, even though the future was very much uncertain.”

As for the rest of the tournament, which wraps up a week from Saturday, Miner expects his team to prove competitive.

“The attitude is that because we were robbed of a state tournament, we’re going to go as hard as we can to get this one,” Miner said. “We have this opportunity. We’ve prepared well, showing great character in doing as much, so lets do everything we can to come out on top of the opportunity we have now.”

Maple Mountain continues pool play on Friday, with a match up with Orem, before wrapping it up Saturday against Timpanogos. Cottonwood will take on Mountain View Friday and Lehi on Saturday.