TWIR9: It’s championship time for spring sports with local teams hoping to bring home hardware

COMMENTARY — Look out folks, the championships will be coming hard and fast the next 10 days.

Region track is today and Thursday, leading up to the state track meet at Robison Track and Field Stadium on the campus of BYU.

Boys soccer has its state semifinals Friday at Alta High School and the championship game is Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy at 11 a.m. Region 9 teams Pine View, Dixie and Cedar will be joined by Juan Diego in the fight for the soccer championship.

Also this coming weekend, the boys tennis championships will be played out at Liberty park in Salt Lake City. And while Juan Diego is favored to repeat as state champs, Desert Hills and Dixie have enough athletes there to give the Soaring Eagle a run for their money. Snow Canyon, Pine View, Hurricane, Cedar and Canyon View all have individuals or doubles teams competing for state titles as well.

A week from today (May 14), the girls golf teams tee it up at West Jordan’s Mountain View course for the 3A State Tournament. For those who don’t follow girls golf, we’re still in the middle of an impressive run at Desert Hills. The Lady Thunder golfers have won four straight state championships dating back to 2009.

In baseball and softball, the state tournaments begin this weekend with the home-site “pods.” The four region winners will host four teams for a mini-tournament that will determine bracketing for the rest of the tournament. After the first “pod” games, the baseball teams will reconvene at Utah Valley University’s Brent Brown Ballpark for the remainder of the tourney May 15-17 and the softball teams will meet up at the Spanish Fork Softball Complex also on May 15-17.

The track and field athletes, both boys and girls, also compete that weekend (May 16-17) up at BYU, with champions being crowned in all five classifications sometime early Saturday evening.

So, with all these championships coming up, what are the chances that one of our local teams brings home a state crown? Let’s take a look.

Boys soccer: Pine View has been ranked No. 1 for a good portion of the year and the 14-2-2 Panthers are the slight favorite heading into the finals weekend. Pine View plays region foe Cedar in the early semifinal game Friday afternoon at Alta (4 p.m.). PV beat the Redmen twice during region play, but both games were close (2-1 and 2-0). And there is that old adage about how hard it is to beat a team three times in one year.

The other semifinal, which begins at 6:15 p.m., features two other legitimate contenders to win the title. Dixie, which finished one game behind Pine View in Region 9, is 13-3-2. Juan Diego, winner of Region 10, is 14-3-0 and has won six straight. The Soaring Eagle have one other edge. If JD can get to the championship game, played in gargantuan Rio Tinto Stadium, the Soaring Eagle have experience on the field. Juan Diego played two games at Rio Tinto just over a month ago in the Real Cup exhibition series.

Boys tennis: Hey, no one is mailing the trophy to Juan Diego yet, but the Soaring Eagle netters won it last year by sweeping the first, second and third singles categories — and Juan Diego has all three state champions back from that team in senior Brendon Kempin, sophomore Ryan Kempin (yep, brothers) and senior Brenten Reyner. Plus, JD is stronger at both doubles spots as well.

Desert Hills won both doubles spots last season and finished four points behind the Soaring Eagle in the team competition. The Thunder hope Christian Davis and Clay Hardy, who went undefeated in region in 2014, can win state again. DH’s second doubles team of Preston Parmenter and Austin Hardy also won region and hope to win at state as well.

Snow Canyon and Dixie were third and fourth at state last season, though a ways back from the top two. The Flyers have region champs in all three singles categories heading into state in senior Tevan Balian (first singles), junior Micah Alba (second) and senior Luke Heaton (third).

Baseball: Snow Canyon won’t be in the playoffs to defend their back to back championships, but the team they beat twice on championship Saturday last year, Desert Hills, is riding high after winning Region 9 for the second straight year. The Thunder, 17-5, are ranked No. 1 and should cruise through their home pod with Richfield, Bear River and Park City visiting St. George. The Bears are pretty decent and the Miners gave Juan Diego all it could handle in Region 10, but neither of those teams have the pitching to hang with the Thunder.

The other upper-bracket pod is at Payson, where the 15-8 Lions host Stansbury, Uintah and Pine View. Region 12, which Payson won, was definitely weak this spring with the Lions feasting on teams like North Sanpete (a combined 60-9 score in THREE games).  The Stallions and Utes play the 2 vs. 3 game, with the Panthers likely throwing ace Dakota Donovan to try and knock off Payson in the first game Saturday at 9 a.m.

Cedar and Juan Diego are slated for a potential second-round game in the Juan Diego pod if both teams can clear their first-round games. The state rankings have Cedar No. 2 and JD No. 3. The fourth pod is at Grantsville and the Cowboys, 17-6, have had an excellent year. Canyon View is in that pod and may try and save ace Zack Brinkerhoff for the Grantsville game, though they’d have to beat Carbon in the first game to get there.

In the double-elimination format for baseball, and with inning limitation for pitchers (14 innings allowed in one calender week), coming out of the pod rounds with no losses is imperative. If a team loses its first or second game on May 10, it would have to win seven straight games over three days (May 15-17) to win the state championship. That’s a potential of 49 innings in three days for teams used to using two or three pitchers all season. Needless to say, teams will pull out all the stops to stay out of the loser’s bracket early.

Softball: The balance of power is up north in softball. Since Wane Kittrell’s Snow Canyon teams won back to back titles in 1999-2000, there has only been one state championship from southern Utah — Canyon View’s 2006 3A title. With club teams and other amateur development programs in northern Utah, the well has gone a bit dry in the south. Last year’s Snow Canyon team went 12-0 in region, but got hammered in the state tournament, losing in mercy-rule games to Stansbury and Spanish Fork.

But, this year Region 9 has three very strong teams in Canyon View, Cedar and the Warriors. Are they good enough to make some noise in the tourney? We’ll find out in the next 10 days.

Cedar won the coin toss in its tie with Canyon View for the region title and will host a pod, opening with Carbon. The Falcons travel to the Uintah pod (all the way to Vernal) to play North Sanpete Saturday and the Warriors play Juab in the Tooele pod. Dixie also made the tourney and will travel to and play No. 1 seed Payson Saturday.

In softball, if the teams win the first-round game, they don’t play another game Saturday and will resume May 15 at Spanish Fork. But lose that first one and a team has to play an elimination game that same afternoon against the loser of the other first-round game in that pod.

Track and field: Last year Desert Hills won the boys title and the Thunder will be very strong again, especially with tosser Blake Kvarfordt back for his senior year. But we’ll wait until after today and Thursday’s region meet to handicap the odds at State.

This week’s schedule:

Track and field
May 7-8 — Region meet at Hurricane, 4 p.m. both days

Boys soccer
May 9 — State semifinal, Pine View vs. Cedar, 4 p.m. at Alta High
May 9 — State semifinal, Dixie vs. Juan Diego, 6:15 p.m. at Alta High
May 10 — State championship, semifinal winners, 11 a.m., at Rio Tinto Stadium
UHSAA Official Bracket

May 10
First round pods
@ Payson
Pine View vs. Payson, 9 a.m.
Uintah vs. Stansbury, 11:15 a.m.
Losers play at 1:30 p.m.
Winners play at 3:45 p.m.

@ Desert Hills
Park City vs. Bear River, 10 a.m.
Desert Hills vs. Richfield, 12:30 p.m.
Losers play at 3 p.m.
Winners play at 5:30 p.m.

@ Juan Diego
Cedar vs. Juab, 11 a.m.
Juan Diego vs. Tooele, 1:30 p.m.
Losers play at 4 p.m. (at Alta High)
Winners play at 4 p.m. (at JDHS)

@ Grantsville
Grantsville vs. Morgan, 10 a.m.
Canyon View vs. Carbon, 1 p.m.
Losers play at 4 p.m. (at Stansbury)
Winners play at 4 p.m. (at Grantsville)

UHSAA Official Bracket

May 10
First round pods
Grantsville vs. Union, 10 a.m.
Payson vs. Dixie, 12 p.m.
Losers play at 2 p.m.
Winners advance to May 15 second round

@Cedar City
Cedar vs. Carbon, 10 a.m.
Juan Diego vs. Stansbury, 12 p.m.
Losers play at 2 p.m.
Winners advance to May 15 second round

Canyon View vs. North Sanpete, 10 a.m.
Uintah vs. Bear River, 12 p.m.
Losers play at 2 p.m.
Winners advance to May 15 second round

Tooele vs. Morgan, 10 a.m.
Juab vs. Snow Canyon, 12 p.m.
Losers play at 2 p.m.
Winners advance to May 15 second round

UHSAA Official Bracket


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