It’s hard to call someone a rival when the games are always one-sided.
Such has been the case for the Tooele baseball team, which plays its home games a mere seven miles from fellow Tooele County and Region 11 foe Stansbury. But over the past nine seasons, that seven miles has also represented a massive gap between the Buffaloes and Stallions on the diamond.
You see, Tooele had never beaten Stansbury in baseball since SHS opened. They were ready-made rivals, but the Stallions thoroughly dominated the Buffs from the get-go. It didn’t help that usually, by the time the Stansbury-Tooele series rolled around, the Stallions were well on their way to a postseason berth while the Buffs were merely playing out the string at the end of another lost season. With the two teams battling for playoff positioning, that’s certainly not the case this time around.
There’s something different about the Buffaloes this year. No, their overall record isn’t the greatest, and I’m sure coach Nolan Stouder and his players would love to have some of those early-season games back. But since the Buffs took two of three from Bonneville and beat Ogden twice to build a four-game winning streak, Tooele’s playing with a little bit of a swagger and a lot of self-belief.
The Buffs’ win over Stansbury represents another major turning point for a program on the rise. It would be an even bigger turning point if the Buffs can beat the Stallions again on Thursday or Friday. This is a talented team that just needed to learn how to win, and winning a three-game series against a team that has long been in their heads would only help cement what Stouder and his coaching staff have been trying to implement over the past two seasons.
Of course, there’s a team on the other side of it, too. The Stallions were visibly upset and frustrated after Tuesday’s loss, and the last thing you want to do is make a good team angry. The next two days will tell a lot about where the young Stallions are physically and emotionally at this point in the season. Coach Ray Clinton estimated that Stansbury likely needs to win six of its final eight Region 11 games to comfortably make the postseason, and that pursuit has to begin with putting Wednesday’s loss in the past.
The Stallions are a proud program, and Clinton’s not likely to let his team dwell on Wednesday’s loss. If Stansbury’s going to make the playoffs, losing to Tooele can’t become more than just a speed bump.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He, too, is looking forward to the final two games of the Tooele-Stansbury series. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.