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OREM — It never left the back of their mind.
Since losing in the 2A state championship baseball game last spring after giving up a 10-run lead, the San Juan Broncos worked tirelessly to make sure they didn't suffer the same disappointment in 2010. They won their region championship and took care of business in the 2A winners' bracket in order to put themselves in prime position on the final day of the tournament.
Now, they can finally forget it.
The Broncos earned their second state baseball championship in four years by beating Parowan 3-1 at Utah Valley University on Saturday afternoon. The victory enabled San Juan to experience the highest of highs after suffering the lowest of lows last year.
"Last year was the worst feeling I've ever gone through," said San Juan shortstop Randy Bowers. "We knew we didn't want to go through it again, so we were just pushing as hard as we could this year and we made it finally. It was so worth it."
The Broncos' work ethic made it happen.
"Every day in practice, they left everything out there," said San Juan coach Mike Bowers, Randy's father. "They worked their butts off all year long."
San Juan usually dominated opponents with an explosive offense in 2010. The Broncos scored in double digits in 14 games, ended 10 games by the mercy rule and blasted 24 home runs.
That offense was kept in check by Parowan pitcher Corie Blackham for five innings on Saturday and never really got rolling in the state tournament. But as winning pitcher Nache Nielson said, "A win's a win — we'll take it any way we can."
"I think it's a testament to our character and athleticism," said Mike Bowers. "We try to score one more than the other team. We played great defense. Our pitching was doing well. It's a pretty amazing thing to not be able to put up that many runs and still hold teams down."
Peyton Black, pitching off no days rest after throwing against Kanab on Friday, started the game for the Broncos and threw four scoreless innings. He was relieved by Nielson, who allowed Parowan to tie the game at 1-1 in the fifth before buckling down to earn his 13th pitching win of the season.
Black ignited San Juan's final rally of the season by leading off with an infield hit in the bottom of the sixth. He advanced to second when Jimmy Tate was hit by a pitch. Cooper Sharpe moved both runners over with a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt down the first-base line.
Trey McDonald, the team's No. 9 hitter, then brought home the go-ahead run by putting a hard-hit ball in play in Parowan's infield that the Rams committed an error on. Benny "The Jet" Royer drove in an insurance run with a sacrifice fly to put the Broncos up, 3-1.
McDonald was also the hero in San Juan's 2-1 win over Kanab in the winners' bracket semifinal on Friday.
"That was freaking awesome," Randy Bowers said of McDonald putting the ball in play on Saturday that scored the go-ahead run. "He dominated (Friday) too. We were excited. We trust our teammates the whole way through."
The Broncos finished the season with a 19-2 record and went unbeaten against in-state opponents. The win capped a memorable year for San Juan athletics, as the Broncos also won the 2A football championship. The victory, however, was bittersweet for Mike Bowers, who is leaving the school and community to follow his wife's job.
"This is an amazing group of kids — each time you think they can't get better, they do," Mike Bowers said. "We're a small community and have a lot of three-sport athletes and they know how to compete."