MOAB — The Grand Red Devils won their first two 2A baseball playoff games Saturday, coming from behind for a wild 6-5 win over the surprisingly tough Diamond Ranch Diamondbacks, then rolling to an 11-1 victory over the Parowan Rams in the second-round contest that followed.
Diamond Ranch, the No. 6 seed from Region 13, gave Grand, Region 15’s top seed, just about all it could handle.
“Diamond Ranch is for real,” said Grand coach Jared Meador, adding that Diamondbacks pitcher Zeb Pierson frustrated Grand’s offense for much of the game.
“They played like a three seed instead of a six seed,” added Grand assistant coach Ron Dolphin.
Diamond Ranch took a 1-0 lead on a sacrifice fly in the second inning, only to have Grand retake the lead when a few scattered hits produced a couple of runs in the bottom of the third to make it 2-1.
Diamond Ranch evened up the score in the top of the fourth on a close play at the plate, then Pierson belted an RBI double and ended up scoring shortly thereafter to make it 4-2.
Grand managed to get three runners on base in the bottom of the fourth, but got no runs in. Diamond Ranch added another run on a fielder’s choice play in the fifth to extend its lead to 5-2.
In the top of the sixth inning, the D-Backs went three-up, three-down, after which Grand staged a three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth to finally retake the lead.
Senior Adam Jenkinson, Grand’s leadoff hitter, opened with a single, after which fellow senior Kiel Schraft bunted and beat the throw to first. Two of Grand’s next three batters got out, but Koi Cook walked and Jenkinson scored from third on a passed ball during McElhaney’s at-bat. Kyler Nelson then drove in both Schraft and Cook with a single, putting Grand up 6-5. White was thrown out at second on the play, but the damage had been done.
In the top of the seventh, the Diamondbacks managed to get two runners on base, but the game ended with a strikeout and a line drive to shortstop, which Brayden Ward caught.
Cook, who went the distance on the mound for the Red Devils, said the win was one of his hardest ever as a pitcher. Even so, Cook said he was confident his team would come back. “I felt like we were going to win, even though we were down pretty much the whole game,” Cook said.
“They were hitting Koi’s fastball pretty well at the start of the game,” said Coach Dolphin. “But he’s a competitor and was able to work through things and settle down by about the fifth inning. We started out a little too anxious, but we are a resilient team and were able to fight back and get the win.”
After that first-round scare, the Red Devils had only about 20 minutes to regroup and get ready to face Parowan, which beat Summit Academy 4-0 in the first game of the day. Jake Topham had pitched the entire game and earned the shutout win for the Rams.
In the second-round game, the Rams’ Justice Walker and Grand’s Nelson were the starting pitchers.
After a scoreless first inning, Grand sent 12 batters to the plate in the bottom of the second, scoring eight runs. Highlights included doubles by Ronnie Dolphin and Cameron Taylor and two singles by Nelson. Walker was taken off the mound midway through the rally and played center field for a couple of innings while reliever Caleb Murphy took over. Walker did come back and pitch in the fifth inning, which is when Grand’s Jenkinson tripled and later scored to put Grand’s lead to 10 runs, ending the game in the fifth inning due to the mercy rule.
Parowan’s only run of the contest came during the third inning, when Brenen Rowley walked with the bases loaded.
“Parowan didn’t have a good game against us, but they are a quality team,” said Meador, who noted that the Rams worked their way through the one-loss bracket to make it to the state championship game last year.
Grand will next face Manti in the third round, while Parowan and Summit Academy each remain alive in the one-loss bracket. The 2A state tournament continues next week at Kearns.
In other action Saturday at Moab:
Parowan 4, Summit Academy 0: Jake Topham went the distance as the Rams picked up the first-round shutout win.
Summit Academy 12, Diamond Ranch 8: After losing to Parowan and dropping into the one-loss bracket, the Bears rebounded to stay alive in the 2A playoffs.