ST. GEORGE – Ya gotta have base runners to win games and Desert Hills just couldn’t get men on against Juan Diego pitcher Cooper Rust. The cherub-faced senior hurler allowed just four hits – with no walks – as the Soaring Eagle defeated the Thunder 5-1 in the 4A state quarterfinals Wednesday at Bruce Hurst Field.
The win advances Juan Diego forward in the winner’s bracket and the Soaring Eagle will play Dixie at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Hurst Field for a shot to go to the 4A championship game. Desert Hills drops into the one-loss bracket and will have to win five straight games to become state champs or face elimination with a loss.
Desert Hills hung close with Blake Milne, Dallen Turner, Lance Kinross and Reggie Newby keeping Juan Diego from ever really breaking it open. But the five runs the Soaring Eagle did get were more than enough with Rust throwing be-bees.
Juan Diego opened the scoring with a run in the bottom of the first inning. Rex Jones drew a two-out walk off of Milne, who had just nine walks all season coming into the game. The next batter, Easton Rex, stroked a 2-1 Milne offering on a sharp line deep to center field. The ball carried over the D-Hills center fielder’s head and ricocheted off the fence. Jones cruised around the base paths and beat the DH relay throw by a couple of steps, making it 1-0.
The Soaring Eagle put together another two-out rally in the bottom of the fourth. Campbell Magrane walked, then stole second. Lorenzo Soto then made it 2-0 with an RBI single to left. Soto went to second on an error and scored moments later when Dawson Stiefel singled to center, making it 3-0. Juan Diego wasn’t done. Three batters later, Rust walked with the bases loaded to make it 4-0.
Kinross came in to end the rally with a strikeout, and a comeback seemed possible when the Thunder were able to get a run home in the top of the sixth. Bo Barben laced one down the right field line and the speedster made it all the way to third base with a triple. He then scored on a wild pitch by Rust to make it 4-1.However, Rust got a strikeout to end the inning and retired the rest of the Thunder in order to end the game.
The final Juan Diego run came on another RBI single by Rex in the bottom of the fifth.
Rust ended up allowing just one earned run and threw 50 of his 76 pitches for strikes. The Soaring Eagle, 22-5, got two hits each from Stiefel, Jones and Rex.
The Thunder’s four hits came from Barben, Trey Allred, Landon Levine and Mason Creager. Desert Hills, 18-7, will face Spanish Fork (20-9) in an elimination game Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at Bruce Hurst Field. The Dons won two games Wednesday, 11-0 over Sky View and 10-7 over Lehi. The winner of the Thursday afternoon game will play again at 7 p.m. in another elimination game.
Wednesday’s schedule of games
11 a.m. – Dixie 4, Pine View 3
11 a.m. – Lehi 4, Orem 3 (F/9) (Orem eliminated)
11 a.m. – Spanish Fork 11, Sky View 0 (Sky View eliminated)
1:30 p.m. – Juan Diego 5, Desert Hills 1
1:30 p.m. – Salem Hills 6, Bear River 3 (Bear River eliminated)
1:30 p.m. – Snow Canyon 6, Park City 2 (Park City eliminated)
4:30 p.m. – Spanish Fork 10, Lehi 7 (Lehi eliminated) at Hurst Field
7 p.m. – Salem Hills vs. Snow Canyon (elimination) at Hurst Field
Thursday’s schedule of games
1:30 p.m. – Spanish Fork vs. Desert Hills (elimination game) at Hurst
4:30 p.m. – Snow Canyon/Salem Hills winner vs. Pine View (elimination game) at Hurst
7 p.m. – elimination game at Hurst Field
Friday’s schedule of games
4:30 p.m. – 4A semifinal – Dixie vs. Juan Diego
7 p.m. – elimination game
Saturday’s schedule of games
11 a.m. – 4A championship
1 p.m. – 4A championship 2 (if necessary game)
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