Prep baseball: Bingham stars develop into major league prospects
When Bingham's Brady Lail walked onto the mound with a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh, it was easy to believe the game was already over. The bottom of Spanish Fork's lineup would need a miracle.
Strikeout. Strikeout. Groundout. No miracles today. Game over.
The defending Class 5A champion Bingham Miners have inspired that brand of confidence this season, particularly behind Lail and fellow senior Connor Williams.
It's no accident Bingham has beaten the Dons each of the past three seasons, including the March 29 victory this year, while Lail and Williams have been playing significant roles. It's no coincidence that the Miners have become arguably the state's best baseball program as their two top prospects have come into their own.
Many teams are lucky to have one prospect who could one day make the major leagues. In the hard-throwing Lail and the ultra-athletic slugger Williams, Bingham has two.
"Things have changed about how baseball works in the last few years, so that those guys are two of the most high-profile kids we've ever had at Bingham," coach Joe Sato says. "The thing about both of them, though, is they're competitors. They're not afraid of the big moment."
At this point, the two seniors aren't too frazzled by the horde of MLB scouts who typically populate the stands when either of them is pitching. They've grown accustomed to the spotlight through years of travel baseball.
Lail and Williams have built a bond through hitting the road Williams remembers criss-crossing the country last year for baseball showcases in Nevada, California and Florida. Through the blur of hotel rooms and airplane rides, the one constant is each other.
When the high school season rolls around, they're the type of friends who throw side-by-side in warm-ups so they can chat.
"It's just good to have someone to talk to on the stuff going on outside Bingham baseball," Lail says. "Instead of getting the team worried about who's coming to see our games, I can talk to Connor about which teams have talked to him."
Lail is listed among ESPN's top 100 baseball recruits, and the Arizona signee boasts a low-90s fastball, a strong knuckle curve and a circle changeup in his repertoire. Utah-bound Williams made the final 30 for the U.S. national U-18 team roster, and he'll take a crack at making the last cut as an outfielder this June in Cary, N.C.
Both players are quick to point to the other as a motivator. In the spring and summer, they're training partners, hitting, throwing and conditioning for hours every week. It can be a competitive affair the two jockey to be faster, stronger and better than each other. Lail is the more seasoned pitcher, and he has helped Williams develop that aspect of his game as he takes the mound more for Bingham this season. Williams is the more confident hitter and a fluid runner, and he's helped Lail work on developing athleticism. The end result is beneficial to both.
"I think we're just trying to make each other better," Williams said. "All that we've been through together, we've built our friendship. We both want to succeed."
But the two stars don't stand apart from their other teammates on the Bingham squad they've embraced the high school experience. Both are multisport athletes Lail was the starting quarterback for the football team, and Williams a forward on the basketball team who have grown into leaders for the Miners.
Sato says Lail and Williams lead by example, but also know how to motivate. Their swagger trickles down. And the duo say there's not another group they'd rather play with.
"I'm just enjoying being with the guys and living in the moment," Lail says. "I know they have my back, and this is my last year to gear up with them. I'll have time later to worry about the draft or college. I'm just trying to concentrate on what's important now."
Whether Lail and Williams decide to go pro after the year, or whether they decide to go to college, it's all but certain they won't be teammates again next season. Aside from potential meetings in the Pac-12, they won't be seeing much of each other.
It will be strange, Williams says. That makes it all the more important to savor the time they have.
"It's weird that we played all four years together, now we'll be going our separate ways," Williams says. "It's going by so fast our season is almost half over. Hopefully we can end it with another championship."
Miners' major league prospects
• 6-foot-2, right-handed pitcher
• ESPN's No. 91 2012 prospect
• Was 8-0 with 1.78 ERA for Miners last season
• Signed to Arizona
• 6-foot-3 right-handed outfielder/pitcher
• Attending the U-18 national team trials in June
• Hit six home runs last season for Miners
• Signed to Utah