After playoff drought, Brighton baseball advances in state tournament
May 21, 2018 02:17PM
● By Josh McFadden
Brighton baseball players react to defeating Roy in the Class 5A state tournament on May 16. Brighton won the game 6-3. (Photo/Chastity Concepcion)
By Josh McFadden | [email protected]
With a fourth-place finish in Region 7, the Brighton baseball team snatched up the final playoff spot. Though the team ended the regular season on a losing skid, it entered the postseason for the first time in four years.
Brighton dropped its final six games heading into the Class 5A state tournament, finishing region play with a 7-8 mark. The Bengals’ reward: a date with Region 8 champion Skyridge on May 15.
The Bengals got the start they wanted against the favorites from Skyridge, taking a 1-0 lead in the opening inning. Pitcher Brennan Holligan struck out the first five batters of the game.
The score stayed that way until the bottom of the third when the Falcons erupted for six runs to start to pull away. They held the Bengals scoreless the rest of the way and added five more runs in the fifth inning to go up 11-1. The game was called at that point, and Brighton was sent to the one-loss bracket of the double-elimination tournament.
After the game, head coach Andy Concepcion told his team, “That game is over. We are way better than what we showed. Let’s go out against Roy and play Brighton baseball.”
His speech worked.
On May 16, after a slow start against Region 5’s third-place team, Roy, Brighton began to hit its stride in what turned out to be a tight contest. The Bengals didn’t get on the scoreboard until the fifth inning but went up 3-2 in the seventh inning. Roy evened things up at 3-3, sending the game into extra innings. Brighton tallied three runs in the top of the eighth inning and held Roy scoreless when it came up to bat. With the 6-3 victory, the Bengals advanced to face Region 5 champion Viewmont on May 19 at Kearns High School.
Senior pitcher Alex Zettler came in and threw two no-hit innings to help secure the victory. Concepcion said several young players stepped up to help power the team to the win.
"This game was a total team effort, “ Concepcion said. “I’m very proud of our team. We kept fighting until the end. We have a very resilient bunch of players. Our pitching kept us in the game the whole way. Our late-inning at-bats were solid.”
Concepcion also highlighted the play of Will Wolfenbarger, whom he called “the smallest guy on the team.” Despite not seeing much varsity action all year, Wolfenbarger came in at second base and was 3-4 at the plate with four RBIs. Junior pitcher Alex Hansen pitched six innings, and several pinch hitters came through for Brighton as well. Freshman Cole Bearnes had a key stolen base to put Brighton in scoring position to help ignite the rally.
Concepcion and his players knew a loss to Roy would end the season. Still, he said everyone was focused on doing his job and moving on in the tournament.
“There wasn’t much pressure,” he said. “This season has been very successful regardless of the outcome. We wanted to go out and play Brighton baseball. We talked and said, ‘Let’s leave it all out on the field today and continue to live another day.’”
Brighton enjoyed its first state tournament win since 2014.
“Our players were happy knowing they are part of something special that hasn’t happened in a few years,” Concepcion said. “They were very happy and were looking forward to moving on in the tournament.”
Editor’s note: The Bengals fell in a close 3-1 loss to Viewmont on May 19 to end the season.