A summer that started off strong for the Tooele baseball team came to an end Friday night in St. George, as Pine View beat the Buffaloes 7-4 and 14-5 in a best-of-three series in the opening round of the American Legion playoffs.
“Pine View definitely did have some talent, but I think talent-wise, we were just as good,” Tooele coach Nolan Stouder said. “We just didn’t show it.”
The Buffs had their chances in the first game against the Panthers, but were unable to capitalize on some early opportunities and it came back to bite them in the end, Stouder said.
“The first game, we were neck-and-neck pretty much the whole game,” he said. “We played a pretty good game for the most part, but we just couldn’t come through when we needed it. The first inning, right away we had the bases loaded with one out and we didn’t score a run.”
After a tough loss in the opener, the wheels came off in the finale.
“The second game was a bit of a different story — lots of mental mistakes, physical mistakes, we made a lot of errors, we walked a ton of hitters and the bats just didn’t come through,” Stouder said. “It was just kind of the trend we’ve been on the last couple weeks and we couldn’t turn it around.”
While not using inexperience as an excuse, Stouder noted that his team was younger than most playing at the 19-and-under level. He said most of his 19U team could have played for Tooele’s 17U team, and most of the 17U team could have played for the 15U squad, though he said the experience of playing up a level could benefit the Buffs come the high school season in the spring.
“We’ll be all right,” Stouder said. “We’ve got a lot of work we’ve got to put in the offseason to get back to where we were going to be this high school season.”
Many of those young players will be vying for the opportunity to fill some big shoes. Tooele lost six seniors to graduation this past spring, all of whom played major roles both on and off the field.
“Those six seniors we lost were pretty key parts to our offense, defense and especially on the mound, along with super-good leaders,” Stouder said. “The roster’s going to be wide-open with not very many locks at positions at all. Team-wise, I think the boys kind of learned that we have a lot of talent, but we have a long ways to go to put it all together.”