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The City Journals

Hillcrest baseball starts region play with wins over East, Highland

Apr 26, 2021 11:46AM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest junior Braden Rosenhan is safe at second, but the Huskies lost 5-3 to Juan Diego Catholic High. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Hillcrest High catcher Ryder Mathis has been known to catch a few pitches in the offseason from Brady Lail, the former Bingham Miner who has played for the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and Seattle Mariners organizations.

“Ryder’s going to get a lot of looks from colleges,” predicted his coach, Daryl Hernandez, about the junior student-athlete. “That has given him experience of what a pro pitcher can throw at him.”

Mathis is just one of Hillcrest High’s baseball players who college scouts may coming looking at, Hernandez said. 

Senior Talon Yates pitches, plays infield and outfield for the Huskies—plus is a quarterback and running back on the football team.

“He’s one of the toughest kids; he will do anything for the team. He’s getting some good looks from colleges, but it’s tough since COVID impacted not just his junior year, but also extends college athletes for another season,” Hernandez said.

Junior shortstop Bryce Young and sophomore outfielder and pitcher Jeb Thomas also are expected to get some looks by colleges and help lead the team this season.

“We have a young team with only three seniors so we’re getting experience and looking to the future,” Hernandez said about the team that has nine freshmen and sophomores. “Our juniors and seniors are stepping up and taking the younger players under their wings.”

Early in region play, the Huskies nabbed two sizeable wins against East and also beat Highland starting off to lead the 5A region with Olympus at 4-0 at press deadline. Prior to region, they lost to Kearns and a close game to Juan Diego Catholic High, after leading the first four innings.

“We’re seeing our team step up to the challenge of our region,” he said.

The Huskies face “tough teams” in region, and had yet to play Olympus, Skyline, Murray, Brighton and Cottonwood, the latter who has won region the past few years.

Two years ago, when Hillcrest played in 6A, they lost in the state playoffs, after finishing third in region.

“We just want to play our game; execute simple plays—not make those sports center moments. Our goal is get our defense together so we give up less runs,” he said.

Even following COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, the seven-year Hillcrest coach is excited about building its program and ensuring players know about Hillcrest baseball.

“At the start of every year, I ask, ‘What years were we baseball champions?’ (1980-83) This year, four kids got it right and the rest did pushups. It’s important to know our history,” Hernandez said.

Since Hillcrest doesn’t have a feeder youth league, Hernandez welcomes student-athletes who show interest and athleticism.

Nine of the players, like Yates, are multi-sport athletes who come to offseason practices as schedules allow. 

“We want them to be healthy, heal up before joining us for baseball. We did reach out and this past summer played some summer ball, getting anyone out there who wanted to see what the team looks like. We paired up younger players with returners, who embraced that leadership role,” he said.

There is an eighth-grade team that some former players’ parents run so Hernandez has reached out to them to welcome them to watch practices and team up throwing balls.

Last year, the Huskies were able to play in a St. George tournament before COVID-19 put an end to their season.

“It was hard to watch four seniors end their four years on the team like that,” he said. “We did recognize their contributions to the program, but it was an abrupt end. We’re just glad to be back, playing ball.”