Friday got off to a great start for the Park City High School baseball team.
After a walk-off win on Thursday night against Canyon View, the Miners were back in action Friday afternoon at Utah Valley University in Orem. This time, their opponent was Region 10 rival Juan Diego.
The Soaring Eagle took first place in Region 10 this season, while Park City finished second. Therefore, the game was a chance for revenge.
Blake Morin took the mound for Park City and proceeded to throw one of the greatest games of his career.
As the Miners built up a 3-0 lead, Morin held the Soaring Eagle hitless into the fifth inning.
Park City coach Lou Green said it was one of the best performances he's seen all season.
"He's out there giving us all he's got and carrying a no-hitter into the fifth against a good-hitting club," he said. "Not too many guys are putting up zeros against Juan Diego."
Juan Diego cut the lead to 3-2 in the sixth inning, though, behind a home run and a triple. Then, in the bottom of the seventh, an error allowed the Soaring Eagle to knot the game at 3.
But, as was the story on Thursday night, the Miners weren't quite ready to see their season end.
In the top of the eighth, Ian Moritz led off with a single. Chandler Barkdull followed with a single of his own to put runners on first and third with no outs.
After Griffin Churich failed to get a bunt down on the first pitch he saw, he battled the Juan Diego pitcher for a few pitches before eventually lining a single to the outfield to give Park City a 4-3 lead.
That's when the floodgates opened and Juan Diego's defense fell apart. Chandler Anderson reached on an error by the shortstop. The next batter, Morin, reached on an error by the third baseman. Jack Lecher laid down a picture-perfect squeeze bunt to drive in another run and, before the Soaring Eagle could catch their breath, the scoreboard read Park City 8, Juan Diego 3.
Scott Stokes then took the mound in relief of Morin, shutting the door to preserve a Park City win and send the Miners to the final four in the 3A playoffs.
"I had no doubt we were going to come out with a win," Churich said. "I had full confidence in us and the way we'd been hitting all day. I knew we could knock in a couple runs there."
After missing his bunt opportunity, Churich said he was just hoping to put the ball in play somewhere.
"I just wanted to make sure I didn't strike out, make sure I had a productive at-bat," he said. "I wanted to get at least one run in there."
Morin, who claimed he was ready for another seven innings of work after the game, said he was feeling great all game long.
"That is one of the best games I've pitched," he said. "I was just feeling it and trying to stay relaxed. My defense was great behind me, too."
Though the game was close and stressful, Green said games like that are what baseball is all about.
"My wife tells me every time I take my hat off that I'm getting more gray hair," he said. "This game adds to that, I guess. But I wouldn't want it any other way. That's what I told the kids coming into the game. You want to play in games like this it makes your program better. It's what makes the kids better and makes them believe in themselves."
Game two was a different story for Park City. Taking on Cedar less than five hours after the dramatic win against Juan Diego, the Miners simply ran out of quality pitching.
Based on Utah High School rules, Morin, ace Scott Stokes and Anderson each had innings left to give. But each had already pitched at least seven innings since Thursday (Stokes pitched eight) and Green said he didn't want to push them too far.
"I told our guys before the game that I'm never going to hurt kids," he said. "For us to have won these games, we would have had to repeat with Morin, Anderson and Stokes for seven more innings. I'm not going to do that. It's not worth these kids' careers. They've all got college careers ahead of them."
Even though that meant enduring an 11-run inning from Cedar in the bottom of the third to effectively seal the deal in what ultimately became a 13-8 loss for Park City, Green said he didn't regret his decision.
"As hard as it is to sit there and watch your team give up an 11-run inning, the kids mean more to me than that," he said. "It's a tough pill to swallow. If we were close and just needed an inning, that's a different story, but you just can't keep running the same guys out there for seven innings at a time that's how kids get hurt."
Granted, he added, that just means he'll have to do a better job earlier in the season when it comes to pitching.
"We've got to do a better job of developing pitchers during the year," he said. "That's probably on me. We need to get more guys pitching in different games."
But, when all was said and done, Green said there was absolutely nothing for his team to be disappointed about this season. En route to a school-record 22 wins, the Miners improved drastically over the course of the year.
"We're playing on Friday night here," he said. "With the talent level we had and what these guys got out of themselves it's unbelievable. I couldn't be more proud of this team and our seniors."
Friday night's loss closed the books on the PCHS careers of Morin, Churich, Jeff Fifer and Jaxon Hermansen. Green said there's no replacing guys like them.
"I've never had four harder-working seniors," he said. "Fifer and Jaxon are the two guys who don't get the recognition, but if people could see behind the scenes and see how many swings those guys took and how many bullpens Jaxon threw, it's unbelievable.
"Blake's been my only four-year guy. It's hard for me to explain to people what Blake has meant to our program. We had [Mark] Trevino last year who just meant the world to our program and Blake's in that same category. I've never had a kid who could play a complete game like Blake he can pitch, he's the best shortstop we've seen, he's banging 90 mile-per-hour pitches he's a complete player and, no matter what's going on, he's smiling in the dugout.
"That's what you can't replace guys who are warriors. Blake and Griff, man, those two kids are warriors."
With a strong core of players returning next year, Green said expectations will be high, but he can't wait to get started.
"We're going to be back here next year, I promise you that," he said. "We'll be right here on this field again, playing on Friday night.
"The good news is Park City expects a winning product now. Our kids expect to win, too. We're starting to develop that winning swag. We've got summer ball coming up in two weeks, so we'll get back after it."