In a peculiar twist-of-fate, the host Valley Buffalos were awarded a “W” in both the winners and losers brackets for the Opening Day contest due to the no-show of the previously-committed Telos Titans of Orem. Thus, they wound-up playing four games to the Piute Thunderbirds’ three in the Championship face-off. By that time they had out-scored their opponents by a combined total runs of 28-6!

Entering the fourth inning, junior ace Hunter Cox was hurling a no-hitter, leading 4-0 before the T-birds thundered back with three of their own. They added another two in the top of the fifth and final regulation frame to capture the lead, 5-4.  Then, following a Valley rally knotting the game at 5-5, with Zaaj Heaton on third, Third Base Coach Marvin Hoyt recalls: “We had one out, an aggressive runner on third and a great bunter (Layton Spencer) at the plate. Yesterday, he did a successful squeeze play, and we decided to do it again. They threw the ball low.  It bounced away from the catcher, our aggressive runner was already on the way, and was safe.”

Post-game, Hunter related, “I didn’t think we were gonna have it, to be honest, when after we had a couple of errors that I thought we should’ve had. I ran into the dugout pretty depressed actually for a little bit. As soon as we got somebody on base I had hope.  A little hope, and then we started cheerin’ loud enough and got ‘er done. So, pretty intense. Nothin’ but a character builder.”

His cousin, senior catcher Spencer “Spike” Cox, insightfully philosophised: “Just gotta work.  You can’t let up. You just gotta keep the end goal in sight.”

“Piute’s a really good team,” stated Head Coach Lance Peterson circumspectly. “In the top of the fifth they had a run and stayed alive on a couple of misplaced balls and a couple of timely hits. But our guys were really good when they came in after that inning. They kept their heads up, ready to go out and win it. That’s something we talked about as a team. It was really fun to see the bottom half of the line-up. It was our number nine batter when the game-winner came in. One through four hit well earlier in the game and our five-through-nine came up big in the end.  We had a lot of doubles and extra-base hits. It was exciting; the team was excited. Hunter Cox pitched a great game, Spencer catching for 15 innings! And the defense for the most part was really good. So I’m really proud of ‘em. They did a good job. It was really, really fun.”  

Principal Jim Wood with 20/20 vision mused, “It went really well. We love the tournament ‘cause it’s early season. We get some of the strongest teams in the state and you get a kinda good look at what’s goin’ on. People really like it! I think it brings camaraderie among the fans in the stands as well as the kids they’re playin’. So it’s been good.  

“This’ll be its 11th year.  It started in 2009 when Jeff died … No, 2010!  It’ll be its 10th year, the year after Jeff died, before we could get it together. Every year I’m just proud of the kids for workin’ hard. You know, with one team droppin’ out, they had to play both brackets.  Four games and they just pulled through it, and they played tough. And really showed that they’ve got alotta character in ‘em.”

It was on this very Valley diamond, while the team practiced catching fly balls in the near outfield just beyond shortstop, that 15-year-old sophomore Jeff Wood, son of Jim and Heather, was instantly killed by the traumatic blunt force “commotio cordis” (commotion of the heart) effects of a hard-hit line-drive from home plate during simultaneous infield practice baseball. He didn’t see the ball coming until he turned to see why he was being called with warning shouts from other parts of the field.  Coach and Deputy Sheriff Marvin Hoyt immediately attempted resuscitation to no avail, while Jeff’s father Jim arrived with the ambulance crew he had been training with at the time.