Orem • It took Bountiful 19 straight wins to end a 26-year state baseball championship drought, but on Friday the Braves hoisted the trophy behind the efforts of Parker Depasquale and Ryan Curtis.
Bountiful defeated Spanish Fork 6-4, and spoiled a storybook ending to the brilliant coaching career of the Dons’ Jim “Shoe” Nelson.
“It’s kind of surreal, but I told my guys after we ran the table in region that we were only going to play five games and that’s it,” Bountiful coach Clark Stringfellow said. “Five games and we’re going to be done with this, and those guys — I can’t say enough. I just have a special group of seniors.”
The Dons were on Depasquale’s fastball early, as they took a 2-0 lead in the opening frame before the pitcher adjusted accordingly.
“I talked to the coaches and my catcher, Mason [Jones], and we just decided to [throw] junk the rest of the game,” Depasquale said.
He would go on to throw a complete game, giving up only three hits and two runs after the first inning.
“His arm’s going to hang tonight, but it doesn’t matter now. It’s over,” Stringfellow said.
Ryan Curtis led the Braves at the plate with four RBIs, three of Bountiful’s seven hits, and he delivered a towering blast down the right-field line that nearly hit the I-15 on-ramp.
“I’m just glad it was fair,” said Curtis, who had a similar hit called just foul the day before. Stringfellow was to the point when talking about his star center fielder: “In my opinion, he’s the best player in the state of Utah, hands down,” he said.
Curtis’ shot gave Depasquale a two-run cushion for the last two innings.
“It’s a great feeling just going out there; I knew I was going to shut them down,” Depasquale said. “I had the confidence, and it just happened.”
So it did in the seventh inning, with three up and three down — zero drama. The Braves rushed to mound with no question of who the best team was in 4A baseball.
Meanwhile, Nelson — who is Utah’s all-time leader in prep baseball wins — said he will hang up his cleats and not look back.
“This team has been special,” Nelson said. “It’s my last son’s senior year, so I’ve grown up with these guys and I have absolutely no regrets.”
In his eyes, this season was never about him.
“I’m just proud of our kids. It’s about the kids. That’s the biggest thing this last season is; I didn’t want it to be about me. I wanted it to be about our players, and it was and they did a great job. I’m proud of them.”
Nelson and his staff of more than 20 years will walk away with six state titles and countless lives touched over the years.
“There’s no better coach in the state of Utah than Shoe,” said Stringfellow.
Bountiful 6, Spanish Fork 4
R Bountiful’s Parker Depasquale gets the win after pitching 8 innings in 2 days.
• After a celebratory dowsing, Braves coach Clark Stringfellow is congratulated by his mentor, Phil Olsen, who coached Bountiful’s last championship squad.
• Spanish Fork coach Jim “Shoe” Nelson finishes his career with 573 wins and a .758 winning percentage.