Nothing could keep a relaxed Grantsville baseball team from winning its second Class 3A state championship in five years on Saturday.
Not tough weather conditions. Nor a delay that pushed the start of the title game back six hours. And, ultimately, not a scrappy — but worn out — Carbon squad, as Grantsville rolled to a 12-4 win over the Dinos in front of a packed house at Gates Field at Kearns High School.
“With this group of kids, there’s no way we could have any nerves,” said Grantsville senior captain Coy Johnson, who closed out the championship game with three strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief on the mound. “We’re probably the most laid-back, relaxed, goofy kids. We’re out there playing having a good time, and that’s what we do all the time.”
Grantsville (25-3) seized control of the championship game with a six-run first inning and never looked back. Brody Barney was hit by a pitch with one out, setting up back-to-back RBI doubles by Parker Thomas and Brady Arbon. After Jake Paxton grounded out, Isaac Riding’s impressive state tournament run continued as he drilled an RBI single up the middle.
Justin Richardson walked before Keagan Landon pounded a two-run double to left-center, and an infield single by Zach Capell kept the inning going. Johnson, in his second at-bat of the inning, drove in Landon with a single to left to make it 6-0. While Capell was thrown out at home plate on the play to end the inning, the damage had been done — but the Cowboys themselves were far from finished.
“Before the game, I told the kids, ‘we’re going to have to grind out this win,’” Grantsville coach Aaron Perkins said. “That Carbon team is a good team. I told them, ‘we need six or seven runs.’ I think it pissed them off, because we got 12. After that first inning, (Arbon) came in and said, ‘Coach, we’re getting more than six.’ I knew they were locked in at that point.”
Carbon (21-10), playing its fifth game in three days after a quarterfinal loss to Grantsville on Thursday morning, scored three times in the top of the second inning against Cowboys starter Thomas to make things interesting. Dinos catcher Anthony Jones hit an RBI single and shortstop Ty Anderson followed with a two-run triple to right with two outs to cut Grantsville’s lead in half.
But the comeback wasn’t to be. The Cowboys were a team of destiny. After having chased Dinos starter Nate Olson after just one inning, Grantsville teed off on reliever Adrien Sanchez in the second. Barney’s leadoff walk and Thomas’ single to left set up an RBI double by Arbon, while a fielder’s choice by Paxton scored Thomas and set up an error that allowed Arbon to score. Paxton later scored on an RBI single to left by Landon, putting Grantsville up 10-3.
That was more than enough run support for Thomas, the Cowboys’ sophomore starting pitcher who got the call for the title game. He allowed just one more run, but that came after Grantsville tacked on a couple more runs of its own in the bottom of the third. Thomas ended up yielding four runs on 11 hits, striking out six and walking two in 5 2/3 innings.
“I was pretty excited — just knew I had to hit my spots and keep a controlled game, and focus on my defense because they’re a hell of a defense,” Thomas said. “I’ve always looked up to (the seniors) since I was a freshman. They’ve always been examples to me, and I was just trying to fight the battle for them. I just tried to do my thing.”
Perkins said despite Thomas’ young age, he had no reason to doubt that he would get the job done in his team’s biggest game.
“I have every confidence in the world in Parker Thomas,” Perkins said. “Parker is a competitor — that’s the one thing Parker is, and I knew he would give us everything he had today, and he did.”
Still, come time to put the game away after Thomas reached his maximum pitch count, the Cowboys turned to their reliable closer — Johnson. He struck out Carbon’s Cody Lowe to strand runners on second and third in the top of the sixth inning, and got Olson to ground out and struck out Braxton Bennett to open the seventh. He then blew a 1-2 pitch past the Dinos’ Triton Abeyta for the final out, sending the Cowboys into a wild celebration.
“Everything was quiet and I didn’t really hear anything, and then (Landon) just started running at me and I got that feeling like, ‘we did it. We did it,’” Johnson said. “It’s the biggest cherry (on the sundae) there is out there.
“Going into the summer before my senior year, I had one goal to win three state championships. Football got away, basketball we were right there — after basketball season, I sent Coach P a text. I said, ‘Coach P, we’re not losing this one. We’ve got one more shot.’”
The championship was the Cowboys’ first since 2014 and sixth overall, with Grantsville also bringing home the hardware in 1976, 1979, 1997 and 2000.
Grantsville 9, Manti 3
Grantsville advanced to the state championship game with a win over upset-minded Manti, which made an unlikely run deep into the Class 3A tournament as the No. 5 seed from Region 15.
The Cowboys led just 3-2 after three innings, but scored four runs in the fourth inning and added two more in the fifth to put the game out of reach. Starting pitcher Justin Richardson went the distance, allowing just two earned runs on eight hits with four strikeouts and two walks.
Paxton and Thomas each went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. Barney was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, while Landon was 1-for-3 and drove in two runs. Arbon had the Cowboys’ other RBI, and Riding was 2-for-3.
Grantsville 6, Carbon 0
Arbon threw a complete-game five-hitter, striking out nine and hitting two batters as the Cowboys shut out Carbon on Thursday.
“As a coach, you’re blessed to have a kid like that,” Perkins said. “Brady doesn’t throw the hardest, Brady doesn’t do anything special but Brady competes on the mound. I’ve never been around a kid that wants the ball as much as him and competes like that.”
As dominant as he was on the mound, Arbon did just as much damage with his bat in the later innings. With his team clinging to a 1-0 lead, he hit a one-out triple in the top of the sixth that led to an RBI single by Paxton, and Grantsville went on to add another run on Capell’s bases-loaded walk later in the frame. Arbon also had a key single in the top of the seventh to set up Richardson’s bases-clearing double to right-center that stretched the lead to 6-0.
“I knew we had to get those runs in, so I knew I had to get the ball in play,” Richardson said.