Missing out on the 4A state playoffs last year still torments members of the Stansbury High School baseball team.
The Stallions finished fifth in Region 6 — just out of reach of being one of four teams from the region to go to the tournament. The thing that irks them the most are the two games they lost to last-place Highland which were the only two region games Highland won last year.
“The main goal for me and the team this year is to play every game at our level and don’t play down to another team’s level. We need to be ready to play every game. It hurt losing those two games to Highland last year,” said senior shortstop Jake Witkowski. “No matter what the level of the team we need to go out and play like we’re up against the New York Yankees.”
“We need to play with confidence and play at a high level,” said pitcher Jesse Clingman. “Last year we had one of our top starters go down and it affected us way too much from a mental aspect. We need to step up when those things happen and play with confidence.”
“We still believe we’re a good 4A baseball team. We competed well last year and have scheduled top 4A and 3A opponents this year,” said coach Ray Clinton. “These kids want to win; they want to beat the best.”
This year the Stallions compete in 3A’s Region 11 and opposing coaches believe Stansbury is the top team. A Region 11 coaches’ poll puts Stansbury first, Bear River second, Grantsville third, Morgan fourth, Tooele fifth, Ogden sixth and Ben Lomond seventh.
“As a team we have quite a few strengths. On offense our top nine hitters are all very capable and we have great speed. We had 50 stolen bases last year and I think this year we could get 75. We have some football players on the roster and our football team was very fast running through defenses this year. We’re also strong defensively,” the coach said. “If we pound the ball into the right-center gap, a lot of our players will be able to turn those hits into triples.”
Clinton would like to see his entire roster see plenty of action through the pre-season and get their chances to show what they have in the hitting department.
Today’s line-up will probably be Cody Barkdull at third base, Witkowski at shortstop, Wyatt Branch at second base and Marcos Chacon at first base.
Jesse Clingman will start on the mound and pitch the first two or three innings with his brother Trevor Clingman catching. Dacota Case will play left field with Matt Lindsley in center and Jackson Clausing or Tyson Haddon in right field. Sophomore Trenton Griffin is scheduled to also pitch in the game.
Brek Bentley, Chance Shields, Dallas Jones and Clausing will also be used on the mound this season. Other varsity team members include Flip Anderson, Chandler Staley, Jarrett Anderson, Logan Stegelmeier, Nick Mackay, Alex Mackay and Caleb Batchelor.
Coach Clinton will be assisted by former Major League pitcher Dave Bleazard and new coach Les Horn who is a new teacher who moved to Stansbury from Ontario, Ore.
“We’ve worked hard with the hitters throughout the winter and we had a team in the Rocky Mountain School of Baseball League in the fall,” Clinton said. “When you count legion baseball in the summer, we’re basically working with these kids January through October.
“Our goal as a team is to go deep in the 3A playoffs; we want to go all the way,” the coach said. “We know we’ll face some strong teams. Spanish Fork is in 3A this year and they’ve won three straight state championships — one in 5A and two in 4A, and now they want to go for the trifecta and win in 3A.”
Stansbury hosts Woods Cross today and plays in the Pizza Hut Classic on Friday and Saturday in St. George at Dixie High School. The Stallions play Wasatch and Cedar City on Friday and Salem Hills on Saturday plus a team to be determined.