Murray • From the way the crowd cheered, even routine outs felt like home runs.
They were clustered in the stands at Ken Price Park on Wednesday evening, some two dozen red jerseys backed up by several more plain-clothed fans. Through seven innings, they shouted and applauded as Vernal fought for survival in pool play of the Babe Ruth 14U World Series.
The Utah state champion fell short with a 6-5 loss to Westchester (Calif.), finishing with a 1-3 record that wasn’t good enough to advance. For the family and friends who took off time from work, however, the trip was far from a waste of time.
“It’s worth it to come watch your boy in a World Series,” said Trent Colton, whose son Tyson was named one of the game’s two MVPs. “It’s a beautiful field. Murray has been good to everybody.”
Westchester was the designated home team, but Vernal red owned the stands. Those parents, after all, needed to travel only 171 miles rather than 700. Count them among those thankful Murray is hosting its second Babe Ruth World Series since 2009.
“It would have been a severe pain to have to travel [farther]. This has worked out so well,” said Joe Ross, who is staying with family in American Fork in order to watch his stepson Zach Young start at second base.
Cries of support — “C’mon, 10, we need you!” or “Believe in yourself, Kaden!” — rang out behind the backstop on nearly every play. And at the end, the crowd rose to a crescendo: “Vernal! Vernal! Vernal!”
The team is a tight-knit group, one that has played together for years and missed their first day at Uintah High to play here.
“They all come from the same town,” Ross said. “A lot of these other teams, they represent entire regions.”
Or at the very least, major cities. Jacksonville (Fla.), the only team to make it through pool play with a perfect record, comes from a city with roughly 100 times the population of Vernal. Stacked against such stiff competition, even getting to the World Series was some measure of victory.
The players sure didn’t feel that way after the loss, a four-run burst in the sixth not enough to cover the deficit. But — with their faces still glum — they gathered near their dugout, looked up to the crowd and raised their hats: Thanks for coming, everyone.
• Vernal was one of Utah’s two representatives in the Babe Ruth 14U World Series.
• It earned a spot in the tournament by winning the state championship last month, beating Taylorsville.
• A 6-5 loss to Westchester (Calif.) knocked Vernal out of the tournament, but didn’t douse the enthusiasm of family and friends who packed the stands.
• Twin Cities (Wash.) 5, Southbury (Conn.) 0
• Mineral Area (Mo.) 8, Branchburg (N.J.) 5
• Westchester (Calif.) 6, Vernal 5
• Newburgh (Ind.) 2, Murray 1