Coming off a Region 2 title left the Darts will plenty to be pleased with from 2016, but head coach David Leo knows his team is capable of even more this season.
“I told the players to set the bar high,” he said. “We’re capable of equaling or doing better than what we did last year.”
The Darts went 16-2 in region play and 21-7 overall. Davis went 3-2 in the state tournament, falling in the second round of the double-elimination playoffs and then winning two consolation games before losing to Lehi to end the season.
Leo is excited about his pitching staff this season. The trio of Ben Rigby, Jaxon Knight and Dom Fuller, who have each signed to play college ball next year, will headline the Darts’ defense. Matt Taylor, Zack Hoskins, Austin Birell and Stockton Hall, a sophomore, will also get an opportunity to pitch.
“The pitchers are sharp,” Leo said. “We’re definitely ahead of where we would normally be.”
Leo said good hitting usually comes a bit slower than solid pitching, but he’s happy with the way his players performed at the plate in the early going. In addition to being good pitchers, Knight and Fuller, for instance, have excellent at bat.
“I’m not worried about our hitting,” Leo said. “They all can swing it. I’ve told [the players] to drive the ball and do what we practiced all winter.”
While many coaches set specific goals of winning region, winning state or attaining a certain record, Leo has a simple strategy.
“If the goal is to win state, you’re setting yourself up for failure,” he said. “Our goals are to quality for state, get the highest available seed and stay in the tournament as long as possible. I tell the players, ‘Let’s play better tomorrow than we did today and fix what we did wrong.’”
Davis won its first three games this season. Region play begins March 21 at Hunter. The regular season ends May 11.
The Vikings sneaked into the 5A state tournament last season as the fourth seed from Region 2 with an 8-10 mark. Viewmont made a quick exit from the playoffs, losing a pair of games to end its season.
The Vikings look to improve this season with a roster made up heavily of underclassmen. Viewmont’s varsity roster includes 13 juniors, five sophomores and freshman Logan Forbush. Only three seniors are on the roster, Nate Embrey, Marcus Rawlins and Weston Taylor.
Things got off to a good start, as the Vikings won their season opener, 4-2 over Highland. Rawlins and Embrey each had doubles, and pitcher Aaron Bresguard was the winning pitcher. The Vikings shut out Highland after giving up two runs in the first inning.
Viewmont’s first region contest will be March 21 at West.
Clark Stringfellow has been at the helm of the Bountiful baseball team for more than two decades. He has taken the program from one that hoped might reach the postseason to one where getting to the state tournament is an expectation.
The Braves finished second in Region 5 a year ago, going 13-5 in league play and 17-10 overall. Bountiful went 1-2 in the state tournament.
“The players’ goal is to get back to being on top of the region,” Stringfellow said. “Day in and day out, we focus on being us and focus on fundamentals and our process. All outcomes will take care of themselves if we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing on the field and in class.”
Stringfellow said his team will rely on its speed and athleticism to compete with Woods Cross and Bonneville for region supremacy. Three-year starter Hayden Jung will man third base and will spend time pitching. Another three-year starter, Kade Burningham, will be the ace pitcher. Other key players are David Stenger, shortstop; Lute Stout, second baseman; Dallin Wilcox, centerfielder; JD Cunningham, pitcher and first baseman; Spencer Jorgensen, outfielder; Isaac Parry, catcher; and Cooper Ohlson, utility player.
Stringfellow has a solid core of returners and some newcomers he’s excited about. Whatever happens this season, the veteran coach has a philosophy of staying even-keeled—not getting too high or too low. He also teaches his players to be successful on the field and off.
“I want them to do their best, have fun and be high-character kids,” he said. “I want baseball to be a vehicle to help them be better people.”
The Braves start region play March 21 at Box Elder.
The Wildcats ran roughshod over Region 5 competition last season. And though Woods Cross replaces a lot of talent and production from last year, the team could still be a threat for a the region crown.
Seniors Mitch Dalley, Zach Burrows and Caleb Simmons, and junior Chase Miller will lead the team. Each had more supportive roles a year ago but will be counted on heavily this season to help the team repeat as region champions.
Woods Cross begins defense of its 18-0 region mark from last season on March 21 at Bonneville.