A tough preseason schedule hasn’t done the Grantsville baseball team any favors in terms of its win-loss record, but it may have helped the Cowboys in other ways.
That could pay major dividends in what promises to be a tough battle for the Region 13 championship, as the Cowboys figure to fight with Judge Memorial and Morgan for the top spot. Grantsville’s 11-1 win over Morgan on Friday gave the Cowboys a 2-1 series win over the Trojans.
“(Morgan’s) a good team,” Grantsville coach Aaron Perkins said. “They were 7-1 coming into this series, ranked No. 2 in the RPI and we just beat them two out of three times. That’s what we’ve been telling our kids all preseason — we’re just getting better as the season goes, and I think we’re still going to get better.”
Before last week’s series against Morgan, Grantsville had gone 5-5 in non-region play after starting the season as the top-ranked team in the Class 3A preseason coaches’ poll. The Cowboys suffered tough losses to fellow 3A powers Juab and Carbon, as well as a loss to county rival Tooele and a 14-13, 13-inning heartbreaker to Class 6A Cyprus as well as a 2-1 loss to Class 4A Hurricane.
“We’ve played a tough preseason schedule,” Perkins said. “We’ve seen a lot of good arms, and it’s paying off right now when it gets into region. We’ve got some young guys who are getting better every day.”
Grantsville has gotten strong pitching through the first 13 games of the season, including sophomore Jace Sandberg’s two-hitter against Morgan on Friday. Sandberg ranks second on the team with a 2.58 earned-run average, striking out 17 batters and walking just six in a team-high 19 innings. Opponents are hitting just .205 against him.
“We know with Jace on the mound, Jace is going to throw strikes,” Perkins said. “He just competes his butt off out there and keeps throwing strikes and trusts his defense.”
Jaxson George is 3-0 with a 1.79 ERA in 15 2/3 innings, striking out 18 and walking eight with an opposing batting average of .212. Sam Daybell and Tyson Hainke each have a 2.86 ERA, and the Cowboys have a team ERA of 2.74. However, Grantsville has had its issues in the field, committing 48 errors that have led to 42 unearned runs.
“Defensively, we can still improve,” Perkins said. “We’re getting there, though — we’re playing better. The kids are playing hard — it’s not like they’re not trying hard.”
The Cowboys’ offense has been solid through the first 13 games of the season. Senior Josh Staley leads the team with a .361 batting average (13-for-36) that includes two doubles, two home runs and 14 RBIs in addition to four stolen bases. Sandberg is hitting .346 (9-for-26) with three doubles, and Daybell is hitting .333 (10-for-30) with two doubles and 12 RBIs.
Baylor Hall leads Grantsville with 15 RBIs to go with a .333 average (14-for-42), three doubles and a triple. Blake Thomas has 15 hits to lead the Cowboys in 46 at-bats (.326) with four doubles, a triple and a team-leading five stolen bases.
Grantsville will have to be at its best to compete in a much deeper Region 13. Morgan beat Grantsville last Wednesday for the first time in Perkins’ tenure as head coach, and Judge Memorial opened the region schedule with a three-game sweep against Summit Academy. The Cowboys will wrap up the regular season with a three-game series against Judge Memorial from April 27-30.
“Morgan’s one of the top teams, Judge is one of the top teams and I feel like we’re one of the top teams,” Perkins said. “I think it’s going to be wild right to the end.”