‘Comeback’ Kanab Cowboys capture state 2A baseball title, rallying from 8 runs down to beat South Sevier

Kanab's players and coaches celebrate the Cowboys' second consecutive 2A baseball state championship, Orem, Utah, May 11, 2024 | Photo courtesy of Jeremy Houston, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Kanab didn’t let an eight-run deficit get in the way of a championship. And instead, the Cowboys won their second straight 2A baseball state title on Saturday, coming from eight runs behind to defeat South Sevier in the title game.

Kanab’s Kale Glover is mobbed by teammates and coaches after driving in the game-winning run vs. South Sevier as the Cowboys won their second consecutive 2A baseball state championship, Orem, Utah, May 11, 2024 | Photo courtesy of Bransen Jackson, St. George News

Playing at Utah Valley University in Orem, the Cowboys found themselves trailing 9-1 after four innings on Saturday afternoon. If South Sevier would have won, it would have meant an “if necessary” game to follow, as Kanab was the undefeated team in the bracket.

However, the Cowboys had other ideas.

“I told the kids, you know, ‘This is a long game, guys. We have a long game ahead of us and we’re just going to chip away one run at a time and see what’s going to happen,’” Kanab head coach Craig Brinkerhoff told St. George News afterward.

Kanab managed to score four runs in the bottom of the fifth to make it 9-5, after which both teams added two runs in the sixth.

“They just kept answering whatever we had but our guys were really resilient,” Brinkerhoff added. “They just kept bouncing back and never gave up. They were never like, ‘OK, we’re done.’ There was never a lack of confidence in us winning. It was always, ‘We’re just gonna keep on playing the game hard, no matter what the score is, and try to win this thing.’”

Down 12-7 heading into the bottom of the seventh and final inning, the Cowboys saw their first four batters all reach base, with three drawing walks and senior Griffen Bone hitting a double. However, Kanab’s next two batters got out, on a fielder’s choice play and a fly out to center, leaving the Cowboys behind 12-8 with two out.

Kanab’s next batter was Lane Sims, who hit a full-count pitch for a single down the third base line to bring in two runs and make it 12-10.

A Kanab player slides into home vs. Duchesne during the 2A baseball state tournament, Orem, Utah, May 10, 2024 | Photo courtesy of Bransen Jackson, St. George News

Senior second baseman Jaxon Riddle then walked, after which Maddix Baird belted a single that brought in two more runs to tie the game, 12-12.

That brought up junior Kale Glover with runners on first and third. After a called strike and a foul ball, Glover belted a line drive right down the third base line, bringing in Riddle from third for the game-ending run.

As soon as the game ended, Glover was mobbed between first and second base by his cheering teammates. 

“They were one pitch away (from losing) a couple of times,” Brinkerhoff added. “You could feel the pressure, but these kids just kept their composure and their poise. I gotta give these kids tons of credit, man. They’re just resilient and tough.”

Brinkerhoff spoke of his team’s chemistry as being its biggest asset.

Kanab’s players and coaches celebrate the Cowboys’ second consecutive 2A baseball state championship, Orem, Utah, May 11, 2024 | Photo courtesy of Bransen Jackson, St. George News

“They all relied on each other,” he said. “They really picked each other up and we knew that one guy was not going to win a state championship for us. They knew that. They are really super resilient and they just never stopped believing in themselves and in their teammates to get the job done.”

Kanab, which had entered the 2A playoffs as the No. 1 seed, began its postseason with a 12-2 win over Milford at Kanab the previous Saturday. Then, once the final eight teams had advanced to play in the tournament at UVU, Kanab defeated Beaver 1-0 in the quarterfinals on Thursday. 

In that contest, the game was still scoreless in the bottom of the seventh when Walker Baird singled, bringing in Riddle, who’d led off the inning with a single and was subsequently bunted to second by Maddix Baird. Bone pitched all seven innings of the shutout victory. He allowed five hits, walked none and struck out six and threw just 80 pitches.

In the semifinals on Friday, Kanab defeated Duchesne 9-3. The Eagles jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two innings but Kanab rallied to tie the score 3-3 after four. The Cowboys broke the game open with a six-run rally in the sixth. Reliever Walker Baird, who threw the final six innings, allowed no runs on three hits while walking two and striking out eight.

Then, after South Sevier defeated Duschene 16-5 in the last loser’s bracket game on Saturday morning, the Rams earned a trip to face Kanab in the finals for the second straight year.

Brinkerhoff said the Cowboys will have some big shoes to fill if they are to defend their title again next season as they’ll be losing several key players to graduation, including Bone, Maddix Baird, Riddle and Sims, all of whom were multiyear starters. 

Nevertheless, the coach said he expects the team’s very capable underclassmen players to step up and take over those lineup spots next year.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.

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