Rain delays last week had pushed the state finals games to Tuesday, May 13, three days later than they were originally scheduled.
Playing at Utah Valley University in Orem, the Red Devils had only to win one game to take the state 2A title, whereas Emery had to win three. First, the Spartans eliminated Beaver by the score of 13-6 that morning to emerge as the lone team left in the one-loss bracket. Beaver had beaten Emery 4-3 in the second round on May 3, but the Spartans won their next four tournament games to earn a rematch with the Beavers.
After the Tuesday morning win against Beaver, the Spartans faced the Red Devils, with whom they’d split their two regular-season contests.
Grand and Emery battled to a scoreless tie until Emery scored three runs in the top of the fourth inning in the first championship game the two teams played on Tuesday afternoon. The Red Devils answered with three runs in the bottom of the fifth to tie the score at 3-3, but Emery added another run in the sixth to make it 4-3.
Down by just one run at the beginning of the seventh, the Red Devils allowed the Spartans to score eight runs in the last inning, for a final score of 12-3.
Red Devil starting pitcher Kyler Nelson, a junior, pitched until the last inning, when he was relieved by sophomore Brayden Ward.
It was Grand’s first loss of the tournament and the defeat set up a rematch for the deciding game, which was played 30 minutes later.
The final championship game was a tight contest of ups and downs for both the Red Devils and the Spartans. It was difficult for the Red Devils to find their momentum, said GCHS assistant coach Ron Dolphin.
“We didn’t have the same momentum that we’d had the week before,” he said. “We were really at a disadvantage because we had to travel a lot more than other teams.”
The Spartans hit very well for the duration of the contest, leaving the Red Devils unable to catch up in the last innings of the competition.
Senior Koi Cook, the starting pitcher for Grand, was later relieved by both sophomore Dalton McElhaney and senior Cameron Taylor.
Grand came from behind twice in the first half of the game and had a slim 8-7 lead heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, but Emery kept up the offensive pressure. The Spartans scored four runs in the fourth, one in the fifth, and four more in the sixth to come away with a 16-9 victory.
Emery, which became the 2A state champions for the second year in a row, tallied 41 runs on nearly 50 hits in their three victories on May 13.
“We didn’t play our best baseball,” Dolphin said of the final two games. “It was unfortunate, but we had a good season.”
The Red Devils’ offensive output rivaled those of other 2A state competitors. GCHS senior Cameron Taylor’s batting average of .532 ranked third in the state, and Cook (.471) and senior Adam Jenkinson (.470) also had impressive batting averages throughout the season. GCHS junior Tanner White led all classifications in batting doubles with 16.
The Red Devils will lose four starting seniors to graduation this year, but many underclassmen have good things to look forward to in coming years, Dolphin said.
Red Devil head coach Jared Meador was chosen to be a coach at the 2A all-star game, which was played Saturday, May 17 at Emery High School. Cook, Taylor and White represented Grand in the contest. Dolphin said even though the all-star team didn’t win, “the game was a great experience.”