Kearns • As Austin Ovard warmed up, the drain of pitching seven innings only a few hours earlier was evident. He wasn’t hitting the strike zone. His throws looked a bit slower.
From the dugout, coach Reed Secrist started to feel grim.
“I was asking myself if I had made the right move,” Secrist said. “Then he stuck out the first one. And I felt better. Then he struck out two more, and I felt even better about it.”
For a Snow Canyon team that was pushed to the brink by Juan Diego in the Class 3A baseball championship on Saturday, Ovard was the backbone. He kept the Warriors upright with his pitching and his hitting, guiding the program to its first state title since 2007.
The senior right-hander threw two shutout innings of the second game, earning a save in a 5-1 victory. He also notched Snow Canyon’s only two hits to go along with two RBIs, earning redemption for taking a loss in the first game against the Soaring Eagle in the double-elimination tournament.
Fellow senior Michael Jensen had made the start — his first since March — and performed admirably. Jensen allowed only five baserunners in as many innings, and his defense managed to throw out two of them.
But in the sixth, when Jensen put two runners on with no outs, Snow Canyon needed a replacement. Junior Riley Gates had agitated a hamstring injury in the first game and was confined to the bench, so Secrist picked Ovard to save his own season.
“As a senior, you kind of expect to be put in that position,” Ovard said. “I was shaking a little bit up there, but it’s still a place I want to be.”
Ovard’s offense was just as valuable as his defense. He singled to right field in the fourth inning when the Warriors were down 1-0, and the hit keyed an error that brought in Chandler Day for Snow Canyon’s first run. On a sacrifice fly, Ovard crossed the plate himself for what would prove to be the winning run.
In the next inning, Ovard got the Warriors some insurance with a two-run single that put the lead at 5-1.
It saved the Warriors from faltering like they had in 2011, when Spanish Fork came out of the one-loss bracket to beat them in two games.
Soaring Eagle starter Ryan Green came out hot, throwing a perfect game through three innings. When Chad Pickering scored a run in the bottom of the third, the Warriors looked extremely vulnerable — and to an extent, they were.
But Snow Canyon also seized on the same emotion that brought it to that stage. The Warriors had fallen from first to fourth in region after forfeiting games for playing an ineligible player. They had to win a play-in game to get into the tournament. They had to go against No. 1 seed Juan Diego in the first round. And they had to beat the team that beat them last year, Spanish Fork, in the semifinals.
So Snow Canyon wasn’t about to let anything get in its way, even as it was down in the count.
“We came together so much closer this year,” Jensen said. “Everything we went through, it brought us together.”
Juan Diego swallowed a tough pill, having won six straight games in the one-loss bracket to come one win away from winning its fourth straight title. The Soaring Eagle played five games in less than 24 hours, and simply fell a little bit short.
“You couldn’t even tell they ran out of gas, because they just kept competing with heart and desire,” coach Troy Davis said. “I’m very proud of them.”
Juan Diego 2, Snow Canyon 0 • Kade Wagner threw a shutout, giving up only four hits to the Warriors.
Juan Diego 3, Spanish Fork 1 • Croyden Carr brought in the winning scores and held the Dons to one run.
Snow Canyon takes two to beat Soaring Eagle
Michael Jensen gets the win in his first start since March.
Austin Ovard gets the save and the team’s only two hits.
Juan Diego wins games against Spanish Fork and the Warriors early in the day but can’t finish.