A state championship in any sport is a monumental feat — something players and coaches can relish for decades.
Grantsville’s baseball team returned to the pinnacle of success for the first time in 14 years just 17 days ago, and looking back, there were myriad pieces to the puzzle that needed to fit together.
We’ve provided four stories reviewing this state championship in various forms, including the situation faced by Danny Nelson.
Nelson’s story was inspirational, but there were so many heroes in Grantsville’s run to the state title. Coaches and players point to solid teamwork as the key ingredient which came from several years of working together on and off the field.
“I just think we were successful because we had played together our whole lives since we were 7- and 8-years-old,” said Wyatt Barrus, Transcript-Bulletin Athlete of the Year. “We never missed a year playing baseball together. “Clay (Matthews) and I are a year younger, but we always played up with the seniors on this year’s team.
“We played in Little League, Pony League and Babe Ruth through the entire summers, and in super leagues. And when we weren’t playing regular baseball we were together as buddies playing Wiffle ball or something,” Barrus said.
Seniors on the state championship roster included Nick Arbon, Ky Fisher, Matt Garrard, Dillon Hutchins, Jonas Johnson, Danny Nelson, Wyatt Smith, Dallin Williams and Dylan Winters.
Arbon possessed great range at the vital shortstop position, and fielded several balls that would get through a lot of high school infields. He also was superb as a hitter with a high batting average. He led the team in doubles.
Fisher was phenomenal behind the plate in his first year as the starting catcher. He also got things going for Grantsville in the first state game against Desert Hills with a solo home run in GHS’s 3-2 victory.
Garrard gave Grantsville a strong option as a No. 3 pitcher. He was solid at third base with an arm equipped to gun down opposing runners en route to first base.
Hutchins’ pitching throughout the season was instrumental in leading the Cowboys to the championship. He and Barrus both finished with 8-2 records.
“I started to pitch well last summer (in American Legion), and looked forward to the high school season,” Hutchins said. The talented senior was superb in holding Desert Hills to two runs May 16, which left Grantsville as the only undefeated team in the tourney headed to the final day the next day.
“They were up 2-0, and I just tried to hit my spots and wanted to keep putting up zeroes on the board for them. I hoped our guys could come up with a few runs — and they did,” Hutchins said.
The three runs in one inning included a home run by Fisher, a squeeze bunt by Hutchins to score Arbon and a stolen base for the third run by Barrus.
“We’re all just best friends rooting for each other. We trusted each other. We trusted that the guy in front of us would get on base, and the guy behind us would bring us around to score,” Hutchins said.
Johnson was solid at the important position of first base, and hustled to chase down towering pop flies for outs.
Coaches applaud Smith as a strong, tough athlete out in right field. The aggressive hitter was often hit by pitches, and he seemed to relish getting on base any way he could. He turned into a fabulous hitter deep in the lineup.
The speedy Williams could chase down fly balls in center field that would pose problems for many outfielders. He was vital as a hitter early in the lineup.
Matthews, of course, stunned all of 3A baseball when he ripped a shot over the left field fence with the bases loaded in Grantsville’s eight-run fourth inning in the final game. The eight runs were just enough to hold off a favored Desert Hills team.
After some of this year’s close victories, coach Loren Anderson recapped the game: “We just kept hanging around, and hanging around and found a way to win.” He was proud of his players’ perseverance, courage and character.
Grantsville appeared to have locked up a region title. It needed one win against Stansbury, but lost 4-3 in 11 innings. It needed a win at home in the final game against Bear River, but lost 13-9.
The Cowboys ended up tied with the Stallions and Bears for the region crown. But all the great pitching and defense paid off when the Cowboys were awarded the top seed because of fewest runs allowed in games against the Stallions and Bears.
It provided the Cowboys with easier games in the first-two games of tournament, plus a home-field advantage.
In the end, all the pieces fit together.