Bulldogs leave Park City out in the cold
The picture of the All-American pastime it wasn’t.
With incessant snow and frigid cold, the Miners baseball team took to the field on Friday for the final game of the regular season against their biggest rival, Judge Memorial, and eventually lost 13-2.
"It was a lousy day," said Park City head coach Howard Hoyt.
The Miners were originally looking for revenge after being shut out earlier in the season, but in shadow of black clouds and a muddy field, just finishing the game seemed to be a task.
"I wasn’t worried about the score," Hoyt said. "The weather was affecting everyone."
According to Hoyt, both teams just decided to play in the elements, as both teams had little to gain from waiting until Monday to a play a dry game.
"It was a number of factors," said Hoyt.
Those factors included the fact that Judge, as the No. 1 ranked team in the state, had already clinched first place in Region 10 and Park City was playing to determine a third or fourth-place seeding in the postseason, but either way, they knew they would travel to face southern teams. But the biggest reason for Hoyt was to save the arms of his pitchers.
"I didn’t want to go into this week with worn out arms," Hoyt said.
Prep pitchers are only allowed to throw 14 innings per week and Hoyt wasn’t willing to sacrifice any of his starting hurlers in their first trip to the state tournament in four seasons.
In the Judge game, Andrew Hoyt traditionally a closer got the nod as the starting pitcher. His father said it was to see how he would fare in case he was needed to start in the playoffs.
"I had to see what he could do," Hoyt said.
Hoyt did well until a pulled oblique and a couple of Judge runs forced him to be pulled.
The Miners did hold Judge to just one run for the first three innings, but in the fourth, the Bulldogs’ bats got loose and they quickly jumped to a 7-1 lead. The Bulldogs continued to steadily score for the rest of the game, and mix of offensive and defensive struggles kept the Miners from ever answering back.
Hoyt felt that Park City lost most of their momentum in their pitching. In the last few games, the Miners have been able to contain teams until midway through the game when a few walks or the wrong pitch for the wrong player suddenly puts the game out of reach. Hoyt says it’s at this point that everyone starts making mental mistakes and losing their edge. The Miners also saw a significant drop in their hitting percentage in the second half of the season.
"I’ve been telling them, ‘just swing it,’" Hoyt said.
Park City now has just a few days to prepare for the long trip down south for a playoff double-header that begins with Dixie. This week, Hoyt has scheduled tune-ups and make-up games with Juan Diego, Judge junior varsity and North Sanpete to keep the Miners fresh and ready for the weekend.
Even with a bit of a disappointing finish to the regular season, Hoyt is confident about the Miners’ chances in the playoffs. The team played well in St. George in the preseason and after Friday, Hoyt thinks the sun will do everybody some good.
"The guys have always played well down south," Hoyt said.
This is also the Miners’ first postseason appearance in a long time, and Hoyt thinks his players are ready to rise to the challenge.
"Guys like the seniors they’ve waited four years for this," Hoyt said.
His only concern is that they will be facing teams that play year round. He is hoping that his four starting pitchers: Brett Sanchez, Ricky Mallot, Scott Neuenschwander and Andrew Hoyt will all be ready for the first postseason matchup.
The Miners are waiting to hear if they will be able to use a charter bus to travel south on Friday. They already used their one-time-per-season opportunity earlier in the year, but Hoyt thinks the chance for the team to travel together with all of their equipment, in comfort, might make a difference in Saturday’s quality of play.
But no matter how they get there or how cold and disappointing Friday was, the Miners are just happy that the regular season is over and they are still playing.
"It’s going to be a great game Saturday," Hoyt said. "It’s the seniors’ last year. Our goal is just to win this weekend and then move to the next bracket."
The Miners will travel to face Dixie at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
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Buses, trains and gondolas doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but they make up the transit alternatives for the mountain transportation system the Central Wasatch Commission is trying to create, mostly in the Cottonwood canyons.