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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Brighton baseball has sights set on playoffs

May 08, 2018 03:02PM ● By Josh McFadden

Brighton’s Alex Hansen (left) and Brennan Holligan were named to the All-Tournament Team at the renowned IMG National Classic in Florida at the beginning of April. Their efforts have helped Brighton to its best start in years.

By Josh McFadden | [email protected]

At first glance, watching a prep baseball team start the season 5-0 might not look like a monumental accomplishment. But for the Brighton Bengals, 2018 started off better than any season in nearly two decades.

Brighton won its first five games this season, giving the team its best start since the 1990s. Entering region play on April 10, the Bengals were 7-2, with both losses coming in the prestigious IMG National Classic in Florida.

Head coach Andy Concepcion said there’s a lot of positivity and excitement with Brighton baseball right now.

“It’s been a good feeling around our program,” he said of the fast start. “The keys have been changing the culture here at Brighton as well as the addition of new players and coaching staff.”

One of those coaches is assistant Joey Cunha, who played for Concepcion in Las Vegas. Concepcion also invited former Brighton student-athlete Jason Turley to speak to the team before the season began. He said Turley’s words inspired the players.

“(Cunha) brings a wealth of knowledge and energy that is second to none,” he said. “We also were very fortunate to have (Turley). His talk was very real and strong mentally. The players have carried it with them through the season.”

When the Bengals traveled to Florida April 3–6, they saw some of the top prep players and teams in the U.S. Concepcion said the pitching was exceptional, and several college and pro scouts were at the games.

“IMG runs a great tournament,” he said. “It was first class all the way through. Florida was a great experience for our program. We had the opportunity to play against some of the best high school players in the country. It was great team bonding, and we believe this will get us ready for region play. We definitely will be back next year.”

Brighton went 2-3 at the tournament, defeating Archbishop Hoban (Ohio) 8-7 and Boardman High School 4-3. The Bengals fell to River Ridge (Georgia) 8-0, to Maranatha (California) 4-0 and to Notre Dame Academy 7-5. Brennan Holligan and Alex Hansen were named to the All-Tournament Team.

When the Bengals returned home, they opened up Region 7 play with a 3-2 loss at home against Alta. However, Brighton bounced back and won the next two to bring their region record to 2-1 and their overall mark to 9-4. The Bengals defeated the Hawks 3-0 on April 11, getting all three runs in the eighth inning. Hansen got the win on the mound and hit a triple. On April 13, Brighton beat Alta on the road 6-3. Alex Clifford and Thomas Powley hit home runs, and Hansen hit another triple.

Concepcion said Hansen, Clifford, Holligan, Julian Greenwood and Brennan Potter have been the biggest standouts on the team. He’s looking for others to emerge as well, and if this happens, he said good things are in store for the squad.

“We feel very strongly about contending for region,” Concepcion said. “We need to continue do to the little things to win us ball games. We need to stay consistent with our approach. The main thing is to believe and do the small things.”

Concepcion said not many observers were talking much about Brighton at the beginning of the season. The lack of attention has fueled the players’ desire to win. The Bengals more than doubled last year’s win total by the second week of April.

“Many so-called experts wrote us off before the season begin, so our players have a chip on their shoulders,” he said.

Brighton finishes its regular season May 9 at Jordan. If the Bengals finish in the top four of the six-team region, they will reach the state tournament for the first time since 2014.