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The City Journals

Murray High baseball team back to defend its region title

Mar 31, 2017 09:46AM ● By Bryan Scott

Murray High School baseball standout Pierce Kettering scores a hit. (Glossy Sports Photos)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Despite losing seven seniors to graduation a year ago, the Murray High School baseball team is confident it will enjoy a bounce back season this spring.

“If you run your program right, you should never be in a ‘rebuilding’ mode,” said sixth-year head coach Marce Wilson. “We’re not like some programs, with star athletes transferring in every year. We have to work and train our younger players, so they’ll be ready when their time comes.”

As Region 6 champions in three of the past four years, Murray is considered by most to be the team to beat. Among those who are confident is returning pitcher and short stop Drew Staley. He is the Spartans’ No. 2 pitcher behind returning ace Easton Brinton, a junior.

“I know Olympus and Skyline are tough,” Staley said. “But we won the region last year, so I’m sticking with us.”

Not only did the Spartans win region a year ago, they entered the state tournament with a dominant 20-1 record. But they suffered some tough luck there, losing two of three games to be eliminated.

Their final loss was a heartbreaker to Olympus—a team they had swept 3-0 in the regular season—13-12 in extra innings. Wilson believes the Titans are the team to beat in region this year.

“Although we swept them during the regular season last year (4-0, 9-7 and 11-3), they came back strong in the state tournament, and have a lot of talent returning,” he said.

This year’s Murray varsity and JV baseball teams are made up of five seniors, 13 juniors, five sophomores and eight freshmen. In addition to Staley, the other seniors are: Alex Hannay, Pierce Kettering, Cash Larsen and Kai Sylvester.

Wilson said another challenge he faces each year is going up against what he believes are “three of the top head baseball coaches in all of Utah.”

“Bob Fratto (Cyprus), Gary Daniels (Hillcrest) and Dave Ballard (Kearns) have all been at it for 20 years or more,” Wilson said. “They are three of the toughest in the state and always have their teams ready to go.”

Although he hasn’t played for the others, Staley thinks another name should be on that list. 

“I’ve loved Coach Wilson from the first day I met him,” Staley said. “He had some great pointers to help me with my batting swing.  He also does a great job getting us ready for each game.”

Wilson’s coaching also helped land Staley a position on the Montana State University-Billings team, where he will play a year from now, while studying business finance.

Prior to joining the Spartan program in 2012, Wilson was the head coach at Salt Lake’s West High School for seven seasons. He teaches physical education at Hillcrest Junior High, just across State Street from Murray High.

“I didn’t make the move (from West High to Hillcrest Junior High) to coach baseball,” Wilson added. “That opportunity didn’t arise until months after I made the change.  I’m glad it did, because I’ve had the chance to work with some great kids.”

Wilson says the 13 juniors on this year’s team are the most he’s ever had, in any given class, since taking over the Murray post.

“Three of those 13 are pitchers only,” Wilson said. “But that will be quite a hole to fill, two years from now.”

Not enough to require “rebuilding” though. He says he’ll just keep working hard with the younger kids so they’ll be ready to take over.

The Spartans’ season opened two weeks ago (March 17-18) in a St. George preseason tournament. They are now rapidly approaching the midway point of the season, with this year’s 4A state tournament set to begin May 16.