A united team brings the boys 5A state baseball title home to Jordan
Jun 18, 2018 03:04PM
● By Ron Bevan
By Ron Bevan | [email protected]
A wake-up call midway through the season helped change the attitude of the Jordan baseball team. Eighteen straight wins later, the Beetdiggers hoisted the 5A state championship title above their heads.
In the end, they made it look easy, taking the title with an inning shortened 11-1 win over Olympus.
“We were like a fine-tuned machine at the end, a locomotive,” Jordan coach Chad Fife said. “It was crazy how good this team became. We set a new state record for number of hits this season.”
Nobody held the trophy higher than pitcher Gage Edwards. The 6'3", 220-pound senior used his imposing stature and smoking fastball to intimidate opposing batters, amassing an 8-1 record on the season.
“Winning this title is the best feeling I have had in my life,” Edwards said. “I have worked and dreamed about this for the last four years.”
Although Edwards can throw a curveball, slider and change-up, his bread-and-butter pitch is the fastball, which has been clocked at 91 miles per hour.
Jordan pulverized its opponents in the state playoffs, winning five straight games to take the title. The Beetdiggers knocked the ball around to the tune of 63 runs in five games while holding their opponents to just 14 scores. Three games, including the championship game, were stopped after five innings by the mercy rule — when a team has more than 10 runs over its opponent’s score.
Familiarity was a key point in the success of Jordan this season. The bulk of the varsity squad were seniors who have played together four straight seasons. Most played with or against each other in super league baseball prior to their high school careers.
“We have known each other for a long time,” Edwards said. “Coming into this season we set goals and the main goal was to be champions. We wanted to go out on top for our senior year.”
The seniors held conditioning and batting practices during the off-season. One of the seniors had a batting cage at his house, so the team would go over every night between 6:00 and 10:00 and hit 150 balls each.
“We divided ourselves into four groups and each would go over for an hour and hit every night,” Edwards said. “We were already seeing and hitting the ball before the season began.”
But while the Beetdiggers felt ready for the season, the start was a bit rocky, showing very little signs of what was to come. Jordan eked out a few close wins and dropped a few others.
By the time the Beetdiggers were two games into region play, they held a measly 6-6 record and had gone 0-2 against last year’s champions Cottonwood. Jordan would beat Cottonwood in the final of the three-game stand, but the writing was on the wall. Something had to change.
“After Cottonwood we had a player’s only meeting,” Edwards said. “We talked about how this is our last run together. There was only one way we wanted to finish it. We committed to each other to make the sacrifices needed to get there. It wasn’t just baseball anymore. We had a goal and we were going to give it everything we had to make it work.”
The mentality of the team changed that day. Jordan went on a winning streak, and the bats were flying. The Beetdiggers scored 38 runs to Alta’s 3 in a three-game series. Then Jordan posted 46 runs to six at Corner Canyon and poured it on some more with 53 runs to 6 against Timpview.
Then in a three-game stance with Brighton another defining moment came for Jordan. During a game, a racial slur was thrown at Edwards from a Brighton player. Although the incident led to a charged atmosphere for the rest of that game, cooler heads prevailed.
“I clearly think the senior leadership forged more maturity after the incident at Brighton,” Fife said. “Everyone came together. There was no divide in the team anymore. They became brothers in arms."
Until then, Jordan players were united but still behaved like many other teenagers do. There would be bickering and even infighting on the team. It happens with nearly any team.
“The incident at Brighton helped us see how united we were as a team,” Edwards said. “After that we noticed that any pettiness between us was thrown out the window.”
Edwards would later talk to the player and things were worked out.
“It’s amazing how a thing like that can actually build a friendship,” Fife said. “There is even talk of the two of them sharing the experience in schools next year.”
The final bonding moment for the team came during a team meeting prior to the state playoffs. The players huddled in Fife’s classroom and made a decision to dye their hair blond. Even the coaching staff got in on the act.
“It’s an annual thing we do, change our hair in some way,” Fife said. “Sometimes it’s a Mohawk, or lines cut in the hair. This time we all chose to go blond.”
It isn’t a mandatory thing to do. There is no pressure to do it and sometimes players opt out of it.
“This year I was surprised to see nearly the entire team, 33 of us, all dyed our hair blond,” Edwards said. “And we were hitting the ball so well we started calling ourselves the blond bombers.”
As many as eight seniors will be continuing their baseball careers at the next level. Edwards has a scholarship to Colorado Mesa University, and Infielder Noah Hennings is heading to Point Loma in Southern California. Conner Hughes will continue playing outfield at Colorado Northwestern, and catcher Noah Bachman is going to Arizona to play for South Mountain Community College.
“We have four others that are considering offers but haven’t decided where to play yet,” Fife said.
As for Jordan, the future looks bright. According to Fife, a strong junior class is followed by the same in the sophomores and freshmen.
“It was nice to achieve our goal and get Jordan back into championships and build a winning culture that can stay at the school,” Edwards said.