4A baseball: Salem Hills secures state title (with video)
Orem • It was a bittersweet moment for Scott Haney as he chatted with his players while they took one last batting practice on the Salem Hills field Friday morning.
Haney knew months ago that the Skyhawks' 10 seniors had talent.
"We started in August and said, 'We know we've got the skill level," the baseball coach recalled, "but if you come together and are unified, then special things are going to happen.' "
In the end, it was around their coach that the Skyhawks coalesced.
Haney never had won a region championship or a state title in 26 years of coaching. "Get it for him," was the motto shortstop Taylor Snyder came up with for the team to start the season only revealing it to Haney after Salem Hills had wrapped up the region title.
Haney watched his team pile on top of one another on the pitcher's mound in celebration of a 14-10 win in Friday's Class 4A state title game with Maple Mountain, and he smiled wide.
The coach's own blood got the Skyhawks on the scoreboard early. Third baseman Luke Haney lifted a two-run shot over the left-field wall in the top of the first inning.
"That was the best feeling I've ever felt in my entire life," the younger Haney said about the home run. "As soon as I hit it, I knew. I'm like, 'Yes. We're going to get this.' "
Salem Hills pitcher Colton Hill went to the mound off just three days' rest after picking up his 25th career win. His coach sent him a text message Friday morning to ask the ace if he would be ready.
"Always," Hill replied.
The four-year starter gave up four hits and five runs and fanned six Maple Mountain batters at Utah Valley University.
Victory seemed assured when Hill walked off the field in the bottom of the fifth inning to a standing ovation and hugs from the teammates he's had since he was just a boy.
The Salem Hills Skyhawks had a 10-run lead on region rival Maple Mountain, and reporters had begun to inch their way toward the field in anticipation of an early end to Friday's championship game.
Golden Eagle pitcher Arik Mack extended the game with an RBI sacrifice fly, and Maple Mountain began to rally an inning later.
The Golden Eagles got five runs in the bottom of the sixth to cut Salem Hills' lead to three.
"I know they're a resilient team," said Hill, who helped his own cause by going 3 for 5 with a two-run homer of his own. "They put a good comeback together, but we're resilient too."
Snyder, who went 3 for 4 and drove in four runs, scored on a double steal in the top of seven to give his team a little insurance. Reliever Zac Lundell got Maple Mountain's Nik Mafi to ground out to short in the bottom half of the inning.
MaKay Nelson then hit a slow bouncer. Second baseman Conner Rollins charged hard, lost his hat and made the throw in time.
With Jerin Hall at the plate and Salem Hills one out away from the championship, Lundell threw a called strike then a ball inside. By the time Hall lifted a ball foul, the thump against the tin roof barely could be heard over the cheers of a standing crowd.
Lundell's next pitch brought a rush of blue jerseys to the bump.
"They got it for me," the coach said.
O Salem Hills coach Scott Haney wins his first state championship in 26 years of coaching.
• Skyhawks pitcher Colton Hill wins the 26th game of his career, fanning six batters in 41â3 innings. He also goes 3 for 5 with three RBIs, including a two-run homer, at the plate.