KEARNS — As it turns out, Gunnison didn’t just have a dominant 1-2 punch on the mound this season with Drew Hill and Jaden Mayne, it had a 1-2-3 punch.
Unheralded sophomore left-handed Parx Bartholomew took the mound in the 2A championship at Kearns on Saturday and had a sparkling performance, slowing Grand’s potent lineup throughout to lead the Bulldogs to the 9-4 victory and their first state title since 2012.
“He’s kind of a hidden factor, I don’t think a lot of people knew about him. We had him ready to go. Most people thought we only had a 1-2 punch, but that sophomore stepped up big time and won a state championship,” said Gunnison coach Jared Anderson.
Bartholomew struck out eight over 5 2/3 innings and only allowed five hits before giving way to senior Gage Mogle with a 9-3 lead.
Grand strung a couple of singles together in the top of the seventh and loaded the bases on Mogle, but he got the last batter to pop out to first baseman Ty Hill in foul territory. The wind nearly blew the ball away from Hill, but he reached behind him to narrowly secure the final out.
“It felt like it was going to go forever, and I lost it in the sun for a second and all of sudden it was right there, it was one of the greatest moments of my life. I’ll never forget it. It was unreal,” said Hill.
Hill was terrific at the plate for the Bulldogs going 3 for 4 with two RBI and a double. He was one five Gunnison batters who had multiple hits on Saturday.
Gunnison’s bats were quite in its first win at Kearns on Thursday, and Anderson joked after that his players were saving them for later.
“Our bats came alive today,” he said.
Tied 1-1 in the bottom of the third inning, Bartholomew singled home Drew Hill to give Gunnison the 2-1 lead and four batters later Ty Hill doubled in a pair for the 4-1 cushion.
Gunnison blew the game wide open in the fourth after Braxon Sylvester, Parker Stewart and Drew Hill led off the inning with three straight walks. Bartholomew singled home another run to make it a 5-1 game, and after another runner scored on a fielder’s choice Mogle stretched the lead to 9-1 on a two-run double.
Just as Grand’s pitcher struggled to find the strike zone in the fourth, Bartholomew couldn’t find it in the fifth either. He walked four batters, including two with the bases loaded as Grand chipped away at the deficit-cutting the lead to 9-3.
“I just figured out what I was going with mechanics and I just fixed them and started throwing strikes,” said Bartholomew, who struck out two batters in the sixth before giving way to Mogle.
He headed to the dugout as Gunnison’s crowd gave him a standing ovation, support Anderson said made a big difference.
“I think I had half of Gunnison here. We filled the stands,” said Anderson.
All that support initially had Bartholomew feeling a bit nervous. Saturday morning Grand had beat Kanab 9-5 to advance to the championship game, and the sophomore knew the Red Devils would try and carry that momentum into the championship.
“He was nervous, and of course he would be, but I told him to get that first out. I told him I’ve been there before, I’ve pitched in this game before. I told him after that first out, it doesn’t mean everything is going sail smoothly, but you can kind of take a breather and settled in,” said Anderson.
Grand’s first batter ground the ball straight back to Bartholomew, who rode that momentum all the way to a state title.
The Gunnison Bulldogs are the 2017 2A State Champions!! pic.twitter.com/jSYTrNL7xd
— Robert Lovell (@robertlovell3) May 13, 2017