Grizzlies fall short of playoff goal
The 2017 version of the Copper Hills High School baseball team had something to prove. (Sunny Sundquist/Grizzlies baseball)
The outcome was not what it desired, but the Copper Hills boys baseball staff embraced its first season and is proud of its results.
“As a first-year staff and my first coaching experience, and for all of us involved, even though we did not make the state tournament, I am really proud of the way the boys learned how to compete,” new Grizzlies coach Sunny Sundquist said. “We came together really well. I think we played incredibly well.”
Sundquist and his staff took over this season for John Morgan, who stepped away after more than 10 years at the helm.
“When he (Morgan) took over, the program was in dire straits,” Sundquist said. “There were financial problems and facility issues. During his tenure, he did a lot of great things for all of us. He was ready to do something else. I am appreciative of him. He was nothing but supportive of me when I turned to him for help.”
The seniors stepped forward with leadership for the Grizzlies. Justin Kelly and Copper Wyllie have both signed to play college baseball.
Kelly has signed to play at College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls. He had 42 strikeouts in 37 innings pitched this spring. His 1.67 earned run average led the team.
Wyllie will continue his baseball career in Washington at Big Bend Community College. He held his opponents to a .306 batting average and struck out 25.
“These two young men were wonderful leaders,” Sundquist said. “Our pitching was very strong. Bryson (Llewellyn) was another one that stabilized our pitching staff. We have some young men going on missions and to school with academic scholarships. They are going to continue to grow.”
Llewellyn had a 2.74 ERA. Sundquist said the team pitching was important in their success, but they had balance on offense too.
Junior Broc Talbot led the team in hitting. He had a .348 batting average and had 14 runs batted in. Freshman Kyle Hoffman had 11 stolen bases.
Blake Gillen was awarded Academic All-State by the Utah High School Activities Association. He maintained a 3.98 cumulative grade point average during his high school career. This award is considered the most prestigious by the activities association.
As a senior, Gillen set the expectations for the program. Sundquist said it has a trickle-down effect. He is trying to teach the student-athletes that one day they will not play the game anymore, and they need skills and abilities to rely on.
“This last fall we did mandatory community service,” Sundquist said. “The boys figured out their own opportunities and went out and did their best. Some served at the Miracle League in West Jordan. They all did a lot of things. They are great young people. Some of these kids work. We bought into the idea of creating great young men. We will win baseball games along the way. I relish putting quality young men out into the world.”
The Grizzlies finished in fifth place in Region 3 with a 7-11 record. Bingham, Cottonwood, Jordan and West Jordan are scheduled to represent the region in the state tournament (which got underway after press deadline).