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Murray Journal

Cottonwood baseball went through the best, worst of times this season

Jun 04, 2024 01:44PM ● By Brian Shaw

Junior Brighton Young throws a pitch for the Colts. (City Journals)

Fielding arguably a brand-new team compared to the one outgoing head coach Chris Shelton had the year before, the Cottonwood Colts baseball team welcomed roughly a dozen new players including Robbie Jensen, a 6-foot-3-inch senior you might have seen in the fall as a football QB.  

Along with Gavin Duckworth, who was handed the C hat as the Colts’ new head coach after previous coach Shelton resigned and accepted a job alongside former head coach Jason Crawford at SLCC where several Colts still play, Cottonwood was starting fresh in many areas. 

And that wasn’t the only change to Cottonwood’s routine, according to Athletic Director Greg Southwick. 

“We had a feeling it was coming,” said Southwick this past summer, as Cottonwood was moved into a more manageable classification and region as far as travel was concerned: 4A’s Region 10. In baseball though, this meant the Colts were now going head-to-head with more heavyweights not only inside their league but against teams in Southern Utah who have the luxury of playing year-round come state tournament time. 

To combat this advantage, new coach Duckworth implemented a fall skill-building program that included several scrimmages against Highland and Cyprus to try and keep up with those Southern Utah schools. 

And since Cottonwood brought in at least 80 new students this past summer to the school to shore up an athletics program struggling to maintain numbers across all sports and not just in football, said Southwick, the Colts were not just able to field a deeper baseball team—it’s that they needed better competition. 

Once the Colts played a handful of nonregion games, won three of their first four and split two Region 10 series with Stansbury [a win] and Tooele [a loss], they were headed to Las Vegas for the Bishop Gorman Tournament.  

A 1-3 record in Vegas led to a bad stretch for the Colts, who lost five of their next six games against Park City and Juan Diego in region play. 

But, the Cottonwood [14-13] bats warmed up against rival Hillcrest to wrap up the regular season. They’d defeat Hillcrest 17-7 on April 23, exploding with 18 hits. And then they’d grab a 20-3 victory April 24, and complete the series sweep April 25 with a 13-3 win. In that series alone, Jensen would hit two home runs and belt six RBI. 

Back at home after the UHSAA handed Cottonwood a No. 16 seed at the 4A state tournament, the Colts hosted Hurricane, a school out of Southern Utah at the Regional. 

Both teams would be stingy through 2 1/2 scoreless innings of Game 1. In the bottom of the third, Cottonwood senior Oliver Wayman hit a triple, putting a runner on base that sophomore Porter Stonebreaker would drive in to give the Colts a 1-0 lead. 

Through six innings, Jensen would pitch a masterpiece on the mound, as he struck out nine Hurricane batters and allowed just three hits in seven shutout innings of ball in Cottonwood’s 2-0 Game 1 win. 

In Game 2 of this 6A Regional though, No. 17 Hurricane would score early: seven runs in the first two innings while Cottonwood could not score a single run. 

The Colts finally quieted Hurricane’s bats in the top of the third, thanks to senior Austin Carver’s work on the mound and would answer with a grand slam home run from junior Ladanian Gutierrez in the bottom half of the inning to narrow the gap to 4-7. 

Carver would fan more Hurricane batters in the top of the fourth, which led to more momentum and two more runs for Cottonwood in the bottom of the fourth. 

Trailing by one at 6-7 going into the top of the fifth, Carver would give up a run for Cottonwood but settle in for the rest of the inning, keeping the Colts in range by the score of 6-8. 

Cottonwood wouldn’t score in the bottom of the fifth but neither would Hurricane in the top of the sixth, setting the scene for a wild finish. 

In front of a pretty raucous crowd at Cate Field, the Colts would blast a run in to narrow their deficit to 7-8 going into the top of the seventh. 

Carver would exit Game 2 of this 4A Regional having thrown several innings and 10 strikeouts. He gave way to sophomore Zane Wayman, who managed the inning well without giving up a run. 

As a team, Cottonwood put on their rally caps in the dugout in the bottom of the seventh, needing one run to take this to extra innings and two to win the series. 

Despite having close to two dozen new players on the roster, these Colts would get those two runs to take a wild 9-8 win over Hurricane and move on to the 4A Super Regional at Dixie. 

Drawing the No. 1 team in all of 4A was simply a stroke of bad luck for Cottonwood, who would be swept down in St. George by the Dixie High School Flyers, 0-12 and 1-8. 

Carver would step onto the mound one final time for Cottonwood at Dixie and would acquit himself well in Game 2: five hits and one strikeout. John Pipe, another senior, had an RBI and Landon Wells and Sam Clements had their moments this season as well. 

To be sure, these Colts have come a long way in one season. With only those six seniors graduating though, you’d have to think there will be more in store. λ