Cameron Day will be considered “pitcher only” no more.
Day led Layton Post 87 of Utah to the Northwest Regional Class A Tournament championship Tuesday afternoon, pitching a one-hit complete game while also knocking a two-run homer, propelling his team to a 6-0 win over Wasilla, Alaska.
After the win teasing yelps of “P.O. no more” rained in from his teammates. Assistant coach Jason Del Rio said after struggling to make contact all season long, Day came alive at regionals.
“It was actually my first homer of the season,” he said with a chuckle, describing his hit over the left field fence in the third inning.
But pitching is where the Lancer truly shined on Tuesday, fanning 15 batters with a consistent curveball and blazing hot fastball that neared 90 mph.
“I was just trying to get strikeouts,” Day said. “It felt all right, but for sure wasn’t my best.”
Even more impressive, Day is only entering his junior year of high school this year, and is considered a nationally ranked prospect.
“It was a heck of a pitcher’s plate performance,” Carson Shaffer said, referring to the mound and rubber rather than home plate.
It was not until the fourth inning that the Road Warriors would get their first and only hit on an infield single from Clayton Boyett.
“It was just a really tough game,” Boyett said. “He mixed his pitches well early and often.”
Day took home a few pieces of hardware, also earning the MVP award from the tournament.
“It’s just great,” Day said. “We put in a lot of work.”
As Day retired the side with three consecutive strikeouts to end the seventh, there was no raucous team dogpile, only modest embraces among the players.
“That’s kind of how we are, a little humble,” Shaffer said.
Perhaps that’s because humility is exactly how the team got to the championship and even regionals for that matter.
After losing its opener 3-1 to Cheyenne, Layton won five consecutive to take the title. The team performed the same feat at its state tournament, fighting through the loser’s bracket for a third straight Utah championship.
“I can’t say enough about this group,” coach Sam Marx said.
That never-say-die attitude is certainly helped by the fact six of the Lancers have played together since they were 8 years old.
On Monday night Layton beat Wasilla 14-3. Although the Road Warriors had already clinched a berth in the championship before that game, the Layton win made it so they only had to beat Wasilla once to win the championship on Tuesday.
The Lancers beat Burley, Idaho 5-4 in a play-in game earlier on Tuesday.
Shaffer finished the tournament with three homers, sending a solo shot over dead center in the fifth. He batted 2-4 with 2 RBIs in the championship. Caleb Brown was 2-4 with an RBI and a triple and Riley Hill was also 2-4.
They scattered 9 hits fairly evenly over the course of the game.
Two errors helped the Lancers get on the board with one run in the first. In the second, singles by Braxton Wright, Caden Zundel and Brown made it 2-0.
Day, also referred to by his teammates as “Big Red” due to his hair color, then put his team firmly in the driver’s seat in the third inning with his homer for a 4-0 lead.
Shaffer’s shot in the fifth made it 5-0 and his sacrifice fly in the seventh helped Marcus Garza cross the plate and make it 6-0.
The Road Warriors brought their strongest pressure in the fourth with two runners in scoring position and only one out after Jacob Gilbert was struck by a pitch and Boyett reached with his single. But Day buckled down and tossed two strikeouts to douse the threat.
Despite struggling at the plate and committing four errors in the field, the boys from Alaska never gave up. Wasilla was by far the loudest team at the tournament, constantly hollering cheers from the dugout.
“That’s exactly what my team’s been all year – family oriented,” coach Ken Ottinger said.
After the game, Ottinger gathered his team in right field for a roughly half-hour long heart-to-heart.
“Just telling them baseball doesn’t define you as men,” Ottinger said.
It was the first time Wasilla had competed in a regional since 2010 and its second-place finish was the best performance from an Alaskan team at the class A tournament.
“It feels pretty good, but we’re not done yet,” Boyett said.
Austin Robertson took the loss for Wasilla, giving up five runs on nine hits through 6 innings with five strikeouts. Kyle Graham pitched 1 inning and allowed one run.
For most of the players in the championship it was about as late into the summer as they had ever played baseball, with the next school year and colder weather sports right around the corner.
“I’m definitely ready for a little break,” Day said with a laugh.