Region 9 baseball: Stud starting pitching stifles offenses on Thursday night

ST. GEORGE — The aces were on the table in Region 9 baseball on Thursday night.

Dixie baseball’s Grayson Erickson pitches in the team’s loss to Pine View, Dixie High School, St. George, Utah, April 8, 2021 | Photo by Rich Allen, St. George News

Following an 11-10 slugfest between Cedar and Canyon View in the afternoon, the night games’ six starters combined for one unearned run (or none, or four depending which scorer you ask), 50 strikeouts and 15 hits in 31 innings. One factored into a no-hitter. Another tossed a complete game while recording all but four outs by way of strikeout. It comes on the heels of three no-hitters already in the early going of the Region 9 season just before the midway point.

In other words, pitching is alive and well in Southern Utah baseball.

“You always know that good pitching beats good hitting,” Snow Canyon head coach Reed Secrist said. “You’re going to have to manufacture some runs and hopefully get some pitches you can handle and hit good. But for the most part when you get into some of these aces, we’ve got good pitching in the region. We always have. It’s why these games mean so much.”

Secrist’s pitcher, lefty Carston Herman, carved up the Desert Hills lineup on the road in a complete-game shutout. He struck out 17, leaving only four outs to record by any other method. Herman retired nine in a row to end the game including seven by way of the K.

The southpaw’s four outs in play came by way of a groundout back to the mound, two popouts on the infield and a caught stealing. The only two balls to leave the infield in the entire game were hits by Luke Orchard and Jackson Turley. He controlled a Desert Hills team that posted eight runs against the Warriors just two days prior, the second highest total they’ve yielded all season.

Carston Herman, Hurricane baseball at Snow Canyon, Snow Canyon High School, St. George, Utah, April 1, 2021 | File photo by Rich Allen, St. George News

“Just kept them off balance changing speeds with his fastball,” Secrist said. “Threw his curveball for strikes and his changeup. It’s something I know he’s capable of doing, no doubt about it, but that was kind of special.’

His Thunder counterpart, Payton Gubler, was equally sharp. Gubler threw five innings and allowed only three hits, all singles. He punched out seven. Gubler was stuck with the loss despite giving up no earned runs as well. He yielded two unearned runs on a wild pitch and an error, which ultimately became the difference in the contest. The two teams split the series 1-1 following the contest.

In downtown St. George, Pine View secured a sweep at Dixie. Traton Staheli, the lanky owner of maybe Region 9’s most electric fastball, controlled the Flyers with a deceptive pitch mix and overpowering speed, despite having what he called a “C-plus” effort.

“Not my best stuff, but I kept throwing strikes and got through it,” Staheli said. “Just wasn’t putting the pitch where I wanted it. Changeup was halfway there, curveball was decent.”

Staheli struck out seven in six innings of work. The only three hits he allowed came on seeing-eye singles that bounced through the infield, the first of which came when Jayden Davis punched a ball through the right-side into space vacated by the second baseman with a runner in motion. Two batted balls left the infield in the air, both flyouts to left fielder Bridger Despain, one of which was a running over-the-shoulder grab to save a run. Staheli’s performance led Pine View to a 5-0 win.

Grayson Erickson was his opposite and was dinged for the game’s lone earned run in addition to three unearned. It should be noted, however, that Dixie scorekeeping did not call the run earned. Staheli lined a single into left with runners on first and second that was misplayed by Davis. It appeared that Brock Roundy would have scored without the error, as he was rounding third when the misplay occurred. Pine View’s scoring agreed with that, Dixie’s did not.

Pine View baseball’s Traton Staheli pitches in the team’s road win at Dixie, Dixie High School, St. George, Utah, April 8, 2021 | Photo by Rich Allen, St. George News

That minor controversy aside, Erickson punched out seven in just five innings of work. He allowed three singles and a double. The Flyers defense committed two errors (or three if you ask Pine View) behind him, but he still posted an impressive outing coming off a five-inning no-hitter of Canyon View the week before.

At Hurricane, Crimson Cliff’s Jaiven Ross tossed five no-hit innings. He struck out eight yet allowed an unearned run in the fourth after a walk rounded the bases on wild pitches and passed balls. He issued three walks.

Jaxon Richey finished the last two innings of the no-no, striking out a pair and walking one. It’s Crimson’s second no-hitter of the season along with a 10-0 win over Canyon View on March 23. Brexten Starley started that game for Crimson.

For the Tigers on Thursday night, starter Cameron Hernandez gave up five runs total. According to Crimson, none of those runs were earned but according Hurricane two were. He struck out three.

Nearing the halfway point of the season, Region 9 has shown that strong pitching will get you the win. In league play, teams that give up five runs or fewer are 20-5. Hurricane is the only team with a losing record in such contests at 1-2. Pine View has allowed five runs or fewer in each of its first six Region 9 games and is undefeated.

But it’s not as if the bats are incapable. Pine View coach Glen MacLellan noted that even Staheli, whose fastball sits in the lower 90s and can reach the mid 90s, he has to pitch rather than just throw heat and hope for the best.

“We don’t need you to overpower, we need you to outsmart them,” MacLellan said. “A lot of these guys, they’re just throwing their bat out there. At this level, you throw your bat out there and make solid contact the ball is going to sail. So, we’re really trying to work with him on his changeup and his curveball’s not bad. The mixing of the speeds and everything, it helps but when you throw that hard and kids see that and they’re swinging, they’re behind, you throw a changeup and they’re still thinking they’re on time, so it has to be effective.”

Six regional games remain for each team. An advantage for pitchers is, unless they make a relief appearance within three days of starting, teams will only get one look at them before the start of the state tournament in May.

Region 9 baseball plays again on Tuesday.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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