Stansbury junior Cayden Clark had hit two home runs in a single game before, but it had been a while.
On Wednesday afternoon in Grantsville, he finally did it on the varsity stage. Clark hit a three-run home run in the fifth and added a solo shot in the seventh, helping propel the Stallions’ baseball team to a 13-3 win over county rival Grantsville in a non-region game.
“I’ve had a few (two-homer games), actually — back when I was little, though,” Clark said. “I just saw my pitch and tried to get on top of the ball. It just went.”
Stansbury (3-2) got off to a quick start against Grantsville starter Jackson Sandberg, scoring four runs in the first inning. The Cowboys (2-3-1) climbed back into the game with three runs in the third, but the Stallions scored in each of the final four innings to pull away.
“First of all, I want to say congratulations to Stansbury — that’s a really good team,” Grantsville coach Aaron Perkins said. “They’re going to win a lot of games this year. They’ve got bats, they hit the ball well, they pitch the ball well and they’re going to win a ton of games.”
Colton Sundloff was hit by a pitch to lead off the game for Stansbury, and Clark followed with a double to right. Braydon Allie walked to load the bases against Sandberg, and Gage Miller had a two-run single to put the Stallions on top. Nate Nunley, who was running for Allie, scored on a passed ball to make it 3-0, and Landen Giles, who was running for Miller, came home on a groundout by Tyler Harris.
“All season long, we’ve been struggling with keeping a consistent approach at the plate,” Stansbury coach Jason Jones said. “We finally came through today. Our approach at the plate was really, really good, and we’ve been stressing that over the past week.”
Miller was in cruise-control on the mound through the first two innings, striking out five batters in a row at one point. The Cowboys finally got to him in the bottom of the third, as Dalton Williams drew a leadoff walk and Kaden Kelley drove him in with a double down the left-field line. Courtesy runner Tanner Hammond came home when Josh Staley grounded into a double play later in the inning, and Blake Thomas reached on an error and scored on a balk to give Grantsville a bit of momentum.
“I felt like we finally got some energy and started believing we could win,” Perkins said of the Cowboys’ surge.
However, Stansbury hit its stride again in the top of the fourth. Hunter Luke’s leadoff walk was followed by Sundloff’s double to left, and Luke scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Clark. Allie hit an RBI single that just eluded a diving effort by Grantsville’s Blake Thomas in left, driving Sundloff in to make it 6-3.
“You always want to beat your rival, and (the Cowboys) are a solid program,” Jones said. “Coach Perkins has built a solid program and we knew we were in for a battle. It was nice to see that once they got within one run, we battled back.”
Then, Clark delivered the knockout blow in the fifth inning. After Bridger Shields tripled and Luke walked, Sundloff reached on a Grantsville error that brought Shields home and allowed the inning to continue. Three pitches later, Clark smashed a pitch from Grantsville reliever Kaden Lund over the batter’s eye in center field, extending Stansbury’s lead to 10-3.
Clark said the added intensity of the rivalry game helped fuel him and his teammates.
“There’s more people in the stands and there’s more pressure,” said Clark, who was 3-for-4 with five RBIs. “But you just have to shake that off, stay loose and keep grinding.”
From there, the rout was on for Stansbury. Three walks and a pair of wild pitches led to two more Stallion runs in the sixth, and Clark added an exclamation point with a solo home run to left-center.
Allie and Miller each had two hits for Stansbury, which had 11 hits as a team — six of which went for extra bases. The Stallions also drew nine walks and struck out just three times.
While the offense had a big afternoon for the Stallions, their pitching was superb as well. Miller earned the win, allowing three runs — one earned — on two hits with six strikeouts and two walks in three innings. Cache Bentley allowed two hits in three shutout innings, while Clark pitched a perfect seventh inning.
“Gage pitched really well,” Jones said. “He was spotting all day and at one point, he had five strikeouts in a row. Cache came in and threw strikes, and that’s what we stress.”
Grantsville had just four hits in the game, with Staley and Kelley each recording a double. Sandberg was credited with the loss on the mound, allowing six runs (five earned) on seven hits with three walks and a strikeout in 3 2/3 innings. Lund allowed six unearned runs on two hits with four walks and two strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings, while Taylor Wood gave up a run on two hits and a walk in one inning. A.J. Herrera pitched the final 2/3 of an inning, giving up no runs and a walk.
Grantsville will play host to Carbon on Friday.
“We’ve got to come out with more emotion early in the game,” Perkins said. “We’ve got to have better at-bats early in the game. We’ll learn from this. I’m not worried yet. We’re a resilient group, and sometimes, you’ve got to lose to get better. That’s kind of where we’re at right now.”
Stansbury will hit the road for four games in St. George over the weekend, with games Friday against West Jordan and Juab. On Saturday, the Stallions will play Brighton and Crimson Cliffs.