Grantsville baseball coach Aaron Perkins used the summer to experiment with his lineup, putting players in new positions as the Cowboys will try to win a third consecutive region championship next spring.
That versatility helped Grantsville top Granger 9-5 in its summer finale Wednesday in West Valley City, as 13 players got to bat and played various spots in the field.
“My goal was to give a lot of kids a chance and kind of see where we’re at going into next year,” Perkins said. “A lot of kids got opportunities to play and we put some new kids in different positions to see what we’ve got moving forward. That’s all I even cared about with this varsity team.”
A.J. Herrera was one player who got the opportunity to show what he can do in a new position. The Cowboys’ regular starting shortstop this past season pitched 2 1/3 innings in relief of starter Sam Daybell, allowing three earned runs on four hits with six strikeouts and a walk. Daybell, who figures to play a bigger role in Grantsville’s starting rotation next spring, allowed two earned runs on seven hits with five strikeouts, two walks and a hit batter.
Not only did Grantsville get solid pitching, but the Cowboys’ patient approach at the plate also paid off. After falling behind 1-0 in the first inning, Grantsville tied the game in the top of the second on a bases-loaded walk by Tanner Hammond that scored Wilson Hunt. In the third inning, the Cowboys took a 3-1 lead with a bases-loaded walk by Hunt that drove in Jackson Sandberg, as well as a wild pitch that allowed Chace Gipson to score.
Not content to just walk their way to a win, the Cowboys’ bats came alive as part of a four-run fourth inning. Parker Thomas hit an RBI double to the center-field warning track, driving in Hammond, and Thomas came home on an RBI single to right by Taylor Wood. After Sandberg was hit by a pitch with two outs, Gipson ripped a two-run double to center field for a 7-1 lead.
Dalton Williams added an RBI single that scored courtesy runner Caleb Sullivan in the fifth, and Thomas came home in the sixth on a double-steal.
“You’ve seen (in) the past couple games, some of our older kids focused a little more, they started hitting the ball a little better — things like that,” Perkins said.
Wood was 2-for-4 with an RBI, a stolen base and a run scored, while Josh Staley was 2-for-4 with a stolen base. Sandberg was 1-for-3 with a stolen base and two runs and Gipson was 1-for-2 with two RBIs and a run.
Thomas, who has spent most of his summer playing high-level club baseball, was just 1-for-4 at the plate, but that didn’t reflect how well he played. He had a pair of flyouts — one to left, the other to center — that had fielders backing up to the warning track, showing that he’s ready to take the next step after being named Region 13’s Most Valuable Player and a First Team All-State selection this past spring.
“Parker just sets the tone for our team, and the kids have a lot of confidence in him,” Perkins said. “Any time I can write his name down (on the lineup), it’s a good day for me.”