The Tooele baseball team is in unfamiliar territory: the state tournament, a place the Buffaloes haven’t been since 2009.
There will be one thing about the postseason that looks awfully familiar to the Buffs, however – the team in the opposing dugout. Tooele, the No. 3 seed from Region 11 after posting a 10-8 record in league play and winning 11 of its final 16 games overall, will meet former region rival Bear River in an opening-round game at noon Saturday at Spanish Fork Complex Field 8 as part of a “pod.” Host Spanish Fork will meet Region 9 No. 4 Pine View at Nelson Field in Spanish Fork in Saturday’s other first-round matchup.
Tooele started the season 0-8, but surged as soon as Region 11 play began. Six of their eight region defeats came at the hands of region champion Juan Diego and runner-up Park City, with one loss each to fourth-place Ogden and fifth-place Bonneville. The Buffaloes beat cross-county rival Stansbury for the first time – ultimately sweeping a three-game set from the Stallions – and also swept Ben Lomond in addition to beating Bonneville and Ogden twice each.
The Buffs’ offense is led by junior Jaxson Miner, who hit .325 with seven doubles, three home runs and a team-high 15 RBIs in 24 games. Sophomore Griffen Bate hit .286 with a team-leading four home runs to go with four doubles, a triple and 14 RBIs. Trey Maumasi (.389 average, three doubles, 12 RBIs), Payton Shields (.386, four doubles, two triples, 14 RBIs), Jonathan Faircloth (.333, five doubles, eight RBIs) and Tyler Beer (.308, five doubles, one triple, 13 RBIs) are also major contributors.
Tooele has plenty of pitchers to turn to, as Shields, Miner, Clay Freeman and Ryan Peterson have gotten the bulk of the innings. JD Park and Brett Porthan have also seen considerable time on the mound this season.
Bear River (16-8, 11-4 Region 12) enters the tournament as Region 12’s No. 2 seed. The Bears are led by junior Wyatt Roholt (.387, five doubles, five triples, two home runs, 23 RBIs) and seniors Kaygen Canfield (.343, eight doubles, one triple, 16 RBIs), Jake Dahle (.333, 12 doubles, one triple, one home run) and Makayden Kent (.386, four doubles, two home runs). Dahle posted a 5-2 record on the mound with a 1.72 earned-run average, striking out 58 and walking just nine in 40 2/3 innings. Parker Coombs was 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA, striking out 36 and walking 14 in 39 1/3 innings.
The winner of Saturday’s game will face the winner of the Spanish Fork-Pine View matchup in a second-round game at 3 p.m. The losing teams of the early games will also meet at 3 p.m. in an elimination game, with the winner advancing to the second week of the state tournament, to be contested May 17-19 at Dixie State University in St. George.