It will be an uphill battle for the Stansbury baseball team if the Stallions hope to win the Class 3A state championship this weekend in Utah County.
However, they couldn’t look that far ahead just yet — not with Thursday’s elimination game against Carbon looming on the horizon.
“Carbon usually does pretty well in the playoffs,” Stansbury coach Ray Clinton said as his team practiced Tuesday afternoon. “Their stats don’t look overpowering, but everyone has the same record right now, so we can’t take them lightly. We have to go in and try to win that game and move on in the state tournament.”
The Stallions (14-11) opened the state tournament last weekend with a 5-2 win over Ridgeline before falling into the one-loss bracket with a 2-0 loss to Dixie. Stansbury’s offense struggled in both games, failing to score until the sixth inning against Ridgeline and managing only one hit against Dixie, though the pitching from starters Mitch McIntyre and Justin Matthews was phenomenal.
“Mitch kept us in the game against Ridgeline until we could score,” Clinton said. “Justin Matthews gave up two runs against the No. 1 team in the state, so we couldn’t have asked for much more — just a little bit more offense to help him out. If we can get the bats going, we can go a long way with our pitching.”
The winner of Thursday’s game against Carbon, which was not complete at press time, faced either Juan Diego Catholic or Union in another elimination game at 7 p.m. Thursday at Brent Brown Ballpark on the Utah Valley University campus.
Carbon (13-11), the third-place team from Region 12, lost its opening game of the state tournament to Desert Hills by a 7-1 score last weekend in Park City. The Dinos beat Morgan 13-2 to keep their season alive.
In terms of common opponents, Stansbury went 5-2 against Desert Hills, North Sanpete, Union and Dixie, while Carbon was 3-3. The Stallions lost 8-2 to Desert Hills early in the season and had two blowout wins over North Sanpete in addition to three wins over Union. The Dinos lost 8-0 to Dixie at the beginning of March and lost 9-4 to Union, sweeping three games against North Sanpete.
Stansbury’s spot in the one-loss bracket means that the Stallions would need to win seven games over a three-day span in order to win the state championship — a tall task, especially given the pitch-count rules enacted by the Utah High School Activities Association this season. A pitcher throwing between 86-110 pitches must have three days of rest before he can pitch again. If he throws 61-85 pitches, he must have two days of rest. If he throws 36-60 pitches, he has to take one day off between pitching appearances. If he throws 1-35 pitches, he can pitch again without any rest, but he can’t throw more than 60 pitches in a two-day span without taking a day off.
“I’m going to try to set up what I think would be best,” Clinton said. “Ideally, I’d like to play on Friday. Coming back and winning seven games, that’s too much for anyone to ask, especially with the pitch count in effect. If we make it to Game 7, I might not have any pitchers left. We’re going to take it one game at a time, and if everything works out, we should be all right for at least the first few games.”