DIVISION IV BASEBALL: Hansen atones for lapse, delivers Panthers’ fourth straight state title

Pahranagat Valley baseball coach Brad Loveday thought his team might be in trouble when Caleb Hansen missed the sign for a suicide squeeze in the bottom of the seventh inning of Saturday’s Division IV state championship game.

“My heart went down my throat, because I fear for the runner coming down the line,” Loveday said. “Our signs, we have a little two-part system to make sure we don’t miss it. But, you know what, in the heat of the moment sometimes kids miss signs.”

Hansen more than made up for it.

As Spencer Thatcher broke toward home, Hansen smacked a 1-and-0 fastball into center field to give the Panthers a 20-19 come-from-behind victory over Round Mountain at Rancho High.

“I just knew I had to get a hit down to be able to score — as long as I could find the right gap,” Hansen said. “I’m really happy. I could have killed my teammate there. I’m happy I didn’t.”

It is the fourth straight state title for Pahranagat Valley, which finished 24-6.

“It’s pretty crazy. It feels kind of like Christmas right now,” Panthers senior Tyler Higbee said. “We’ve won state in football, basketball and baseball all four years — 12 state championships. I can’t think of any better way to do it. As a freshman, you set the goal to win 12 state championships. But to actually do it, it’s amazing.” 

Mitchell Doheny tied the game for the Round Mountain (20-8) in the top of the seventh with an RBI triple. But one batter later, the senior was thrown out at the plate trying to score on an errant throw back to the pitcher.

Pahranagat Valley’s shortstop Wade Leavitt threw a blur to Tyson Sparrow, who blocked home to perserve the tie.

“We had so many young kids playing,” Loveday said. “For them to kind of will their way through and get this done was huge.”

The teams combined for 27 hits, and the game featured a total of 22 walks and five hit batters.

The Panthers jumped out to an 11-1 lead in the first inning after 15 batters came to the plate and eight of them walked. Sparrow had two singles and three RBIs in the inning.

But Round Mountain, playing for its first state title since 1995, never backed down.

The Knights chipped away at Pahranagat Valley’s lead with two runs in the third inning and four in the fourth, before scoring 10 times in the fifth to complete a short-lived comeback. The big blow came on Serjio Chavez’s bases-clearing double that put Round Mountain ahead, 17-13.

“Both teams just kind of ran out of pitching,” Loveday said. “We had a couple of kids who were ready to go, but they just didn’t have it today. We just had trouble throwing strikes, and when you have trouble throwing strikes, people score a lot of runs on you.”

But the Panthers didn’t waver, scoring one in the fifth and five in the sixth to go ahead, 19-18.

Sparrow went 4-for-5 with five RBIs, three runs and two stolen bases. Leavitt was 3-for-4 with three stolen bases and five runs, and Higbee went 3-for-3 with two RBIs, three runs and three stolen bases.

Carlos Chavez was 4-for-4 with four runs, two doubles, two walks and two RBIs for Round Mountain, which got five RBIs from Serjio Chavez and two hits apiece from Emitt Davis and  Doheny.

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