One 4 Otis: PCHS baseball wins for late coach
April 16, 2010
HEBER CITY – The whooping and hollering from the Miners’ dugout started growing louder as early as the fifth inning. Visiting fans and parents from Carbon tried to match the cacophony, erupting triumphantly as the final Miner of the frame was set down swinging, but their interruption was momentary.
The Park City High School baseball team trailed 2-1 against undefeated (16-0) Carbon at Heber City on Thursday afternoon, but that score didn’t stop the Miners from keeping the faith – loudly – as they attempted to honor late assistant coach Keith Otis.
the time junior Connor Howard broke through with a 3-RBI double to right center field in the bottom of the sixth, the chatter turned riotous. That’s the way it stayed.
"Keith was one of the guys," Howard said of Otis, who died suddenly on April 6 at age 23. "We miss him every day at baseball practice, and that hit was for him."
Otis, who played at Mitchell College before joining the Miners’ staff this season, had a visibly big impact in his short time with the team. Park City’s players wore his number "4" on their hats and sleeves, and his jersey hung from the fence near the dugout.
"We really took it pretty hard" said senior starting pitcher Dakota Matherly. "He was a huge part of our lives, and he really meant something. For him to be taken out so quick like that, it really hurt.
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"Now, we’re trying to use that to push ourselves forward. We’re not going to let him be forgotten."
The Miners moved to 8-3 with the win and rebounded from a 6-0 loss to Wasatch last Thursday, April 8, that occurred while emotions about their coach’s passing were still running high. Head coach Terry Phillips said it wasn’t an easy process for his players to become comfortable on the field again.
"It’s a team effort," Phillips said. "Every single one of the kids on the bench, the coaches, the parents, the fans, every single person everyone in the community has helped us come back out here with a smile on our faces."
Matherly needed just 83 pitches for a complete game against the Dinos, conceding five hits and no walks. He struck out five Carbon hitters while keeping the Miners alive as they struggled to crack opposing starter Gage Bigelow.
"You’ve got to be kidding me," Phillips said. "Against a good team that everybody’s been talking about like they’re the best in the world, he gives up two runs and five hits."
Phillips said Matherly is the type of competitor who can will himself to victory, and he had no shortage of that willpower on Thursday, when the Miners played at Heber because of snow on their home field.
"It really meant a lot," Matherly said. "I wanted to beat them so bad. I haven’t played a game that I wanted to win that much."
The Dinos scored in the top half of the first after reaching on an error, recording a single, and then taking advantage of a rundown between first and second to sneak in before the third out.
Park City struck back in the bottom of the third when junior Robert Cashell reached on a walk, stole second and third, and was driven in by junior Skyler Barkdull’s scorched single to left center.
Carbon retook the lead, however, in the top of the fourth on Daniel Peczuh’s RBI double deep into center field. The visitors nearly expanded that advantage on a hard liner to center by Keny Seals, but a spinning relay throw from senior David Snyder gunned down the runner at home plate, where senior Les Ashwood held onto the ball despite a big impact.
That excitement helped energize the PCHS bench, which had lost some of its enthusiasm watching 11 Bigelow strikeouts. They couldn’t break through in the bottom of the fifth, but the shouts never stopped coming at the slightest positive – a ball, a failed pick-off or even a batter’s call for "time."
"We get really rowdy," Howard said. "We come together when the game’s on the line, and that usually helps us pull through."
Phillips texted friends and family of Otis in Connecticut, letting them know when they were down 2-1 and reciting Otis’ favorite line: "Change the game."
"Every time he said that, something happened," said Phillips, who used the trick twice in the decisive sixth inning before they finally chased Bigelow from the game.
Snyder hit a hard liner to center, followed by a Bardull single down the left baseline to put runners on the corners. The Dinos changed pitchers and issued a free pass to senior standout David Feasler, setting the table for Howard to launch a high, sailing shot to right centerfield that plated all three runners.
Ashwood followed two batters later with a single to right that scored pinch runner Chad Wing and capped the inning at 5-2 Park City.
"These kids have been doing it their whole life late in the game," Phillips said. "There was never a doubt in my mind. That’s the amazing part. We’ll win every game if we get into the (opponents’) bullpen."
Matherly struck out two of the final two hitters to seal the victory.
After the game, a teary-eyed Phillips told players that they did everything they needed to do to win, and he was proud of their courage in the face of adversity.
"It’s still them," Phillips said. "They’re still the ones that do it all. We just have a little help."