The Stansbury baseball team had one of the youngest rosters in the American Legion 17U tournament last week, and injuries further depleted the Stallions’ depth.
It was a situation that could have given Stansbury a convenient excuse to exit the double-elimination tournament quickly, particularly having entered the bracket as a No. 5 seed. However, the Stallions managed to make some noise, defeating Salem Hills in the tournament opener before back-to-back tough losses to top-seeded Judge Memorial and second-seeded Pleasant Grove brought their summer to a close.
“It’s bittersweet — I thought we could have gone a little further in the tournament,” Stansbury coach Jason Jones said. “I thought we had the guys to (go further), but we ran into some really good teams with Judge and Pleasant Grove. We told them that to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, and now we know what the standard is. Hopefully, we can get there some day.”
By the time Saturday’s elimination game against Pleasant Grove came around, the Stallions were down to just nine players, and one of them — left fielder Ethan Wayman — was dealing with an arm injury that left him unable to throw the ball in from the outfield. Earlier in the week, Devin Olson broke his arm while pitching in the regular-season finale against Timpanogos, leaving the Stallions considerably short-handed.
However, despite the short bench and a roster filled with young, inexperienced players, the Stallions came out and made a statement on Thursday evening in Salem, routing host Salem Hills 10-4 in the opening round of the tournament. Starting pitcher Bridger Shields allowed two earned runs on five hits, walking two and striking out four in five innings for Stansbury. Relievers Peyton Bleazard and Nate Nunley each gave up a run in their respective innings of work.
Offensively, Bleazard was 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored, while Kimball Thorpe was 2-for-4 with four RBIs and Nunley was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs.
The Stallions fell to No. 1 seed Judge Memorial on Friday night, setting up Saturday’s game against Pleasant Grove at Westlake High School in Saratoga Springs. There, Stansbury faced one of the state’s top pitchers in Vikings southpaw Ernesto Canchola, who tossed a six-inning no-hitter with three walks and 11 strikeouts in PG’s 10-0 victory.
Bleazard started the game on the mound for Stansbury, alllowing seven runs on 10 hits and five walks in four innings. Shields allowed two runs on one hit and two walks in one-plus inning before giving way to Nunley in the sixth. Nunley allowed one run on three hits and a walk before the game ended by the 10-run mercy rule.
However, Jones wasn’t about to let the final two games of the tournament put a damper on what the Stallions were able to accomplish during the summer.
“It’s all about getting reps for the younger guys who might not have gotten a lot of reps this spring,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing — developing those players so they’ll be ready for next year’s high school season. I wasn’t able to be around the freshmen very much during the spring, so they got to know me and how I coach and how we want our program to be. It was good to get a few more games in.
“They’re a lot of fun to watch, just because they love playing the game. They have a lot of energy and they play for each other. They’re not selfish and they play for each other, and that’s what we’re trying to build.”
Jones hopes participation in the Stallions’ summer program will increase in the years to come.
“It’s been a good little run,” he said. “I think as we get more guys to buy into this Legion program, it will be beneficial to our overall program. I think we’ll get more players next year, and it was good for the guys who showed up. They got a lot more reps, they got to see us and we got to see them.”