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Kearns • Even if he wanted to, Gunnison Valley senior Drew Hill knew he wasn't going to pitch on the final day of the Class 2A state baseball tournament.
And he knew it as soon as he was handed the ball Friday.
Hill, armed with a upper-80s to low-90s fastball uncommon at the small-school level and who will play at Utah Valley University, knew his job was to get the Bulldogs into Saturday's championship game.
And that he did, though not without several moments of severe consternation, as Gunnison knocked off Grand County 7-5 to stay undefeated in the double-elimination tournament.
After reaching the 110-pitch limit after the second batter in the seventh inning, Hill exited in favor of Dave Mogle, who finished the game.
"We haven't been in this situation since 2012," Hill said. "We were eighth-graders the last time they won it. As seniors, that's been our dream."
The strategy for Gunnison Valley (23-3) in the postseason was to use its best pitchers just to get to championship day.
"If you know that you're done for the next day, it's either win or go home, really," Hill said. "With the pitching that 2A has, it's hard to come through that losers' bracket with these new pitching rules."
The Bulldogs jumped to a 5-1 lead in the third, thanks mostly to a bases-loaded triple by Jaden Maynes.
Hill got into, then averted, major trouble in the fourth inning when Grand County (21-4) loaded the bases with one out. All three runners were courtesy of walks by Hill, who then struck out two in a row to escape. Both fanned on 3-2 counts, and Hill went off-speed both times.
"I threw a slider both times. I knew they were going to be looking fastball," Hill said. "My slider goes right down the middle and then dives away, so with them looking fastball, that was a good pitch."
"To each hitter, a 3-2 slider," Grand County coach Jared Meador said. "Two hitters in a row that's gutsy."
The Red Devils got an RBI double from Caden Noyes in the first, and Josh Jones' single in the fifth led to two runs.
Grand County nearly got to the Bulldogs in the seventh.
With the tying runs at second and third, Mogle induced a flyout to left to end the game.
"He hasn't pitched a lot," Hill said about Mogle." To have him come in and close it out is a gutsy performance."
Meador adopted just the opposite tact for his team entering play Thursday. The Red Devils have saved their three best pitchers for full availability Saturday.
And that's how many games Grand County will have to win in one day to capture the state crown.
"All our power arms have 110 [pitches] tomorrow," Meador said. "I think their [the Bulldogs'] attitude was 'We'll make it to Saturday, and Saturday will take care of itself.'"
Gunnison Valley 7, Grand County 5
R Gunnison Valley starter Drew Hill works into the seventh and strikes out nine batters for the victory.
• Jaden Mayne socks a three-run tripe in the third as the Bulldogs score four runs for a 5-1 lead.
• Grand County suffers its first loss of the double-elimination tournament and will have to beat Kanab then Gunnison Valley twice Saturday to win the Class 2A championship.