As much as Spanish Fork baseball coach Shoe Nelson would like his team’s pursuit of a Class 4A baseball championship to be about his players when the tournament begins Tuesday, the veteran coach will be a focal point.
Nelson is retiring after 29 seasons of coaching following the state tournament. His Dons, led by hitters Hayes Hall, Brock Nelson, Trevor Perkins and pitchers Maverik Buffo and Bennett Bradford, got Nelson his 17th region title and have played in the final state game five times in the last five years. Spanish Fork is pursuing its seventh title under Nelson, who will likely end the tournament as the state’s winningest baseball coach in history.
5A baseball, Tuesday
All games start at 4 p.m.
» Hillcrest at Copper Hills
» Viewmont at Pleasant Grove
» Layton at Riverton
» Bingham at Cottonwood
» Lone Peak at Davis
» Brighton at Taylorsville
» Hunter at Jordan
» Fremont at American Fork
4A baseball, Tuesday
All games start at 4 p.m.
» Woods Cross at Murray
» Bonneville at Spanish Fork
» Wasatch at Mountain Crest
» Mountain View at Kearns
» Salem Hills at Logan/Box Elder
» Timpanogos at Bountiful
» Cyprus at Skyline
» Box Elder/Logan at Maple Mtn.
"We are playing well," said Nelson. "We won our region championship in the toughest 4A league in the state. We have won three in a row and five of our last six, and have survived kind of a mid-season swoon."
Nelson feels as though defending champion Salem Hills, league rival Maple Mountain, Skyline and Mt. Crest could challenge his team for the 4A title.
He also acknowledges having mixed emotions about coaching for the final time.
"I am looking forward to it. But in a lot of ways not wanting it to end but realizing it will," he said. "It’s a very emotional time of year for me because it will be over in two weeks. I have no regrets. I am satisfied with my decision to call it a career. I want this last two weeks to be about our team and players, not me."
The first two rounds of the tournament are scheduled at home sites. Games then move to Utah Valley University on May 20, 22 and 23.
The Class 5A state baseball tournament also opens its double elimination format event Tuesday with eight first-round games. Jordan, Taylorsville, Pleasant Grove and Layton enter as region champions while defending champion Bingham, traditional power Cottonwood and Copper Hills all could be a factor.
"Our pitching and defense are looking good at the moment," said Jordan coach Chad Fife, whose team is certainly among the favorites. "Our bats have gone a bit silent, however."
The Beetdiggers are led by hitters Colton Shaver, Mason Krueger, Cale Hathaway and Mason Hayes and pitchers Morgan Gomez and Jacob Dirkson.
The tournament’s second round will be Wednesday before games May 20 at Kearns High. The championship will be decided May 22-23 at UVU.
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