The 2021 baseball season may have seemed normal compared to a year ago, when COVID-19 sent a wrecking ball through all things sports related.
While actually playing games and having fans back in the stands was a great step in a return to normalcy, most coaches had to deal with issues below the surface.
Some new coaches that were supposed to take over teams last year had to wait another season. Missing a high school season meant that some underclassmen jumped to varsity this year despite missing a full high school season of development last year. For some teams, that inexperience showed, especially early in the season.
Some rosters that would have been loaded with seniors and experience a year ago, never got to see the field in 2020, and younger players may have missed a chance to mature and become leaders themselves.
So that’s the backdrop for this year’s All-Area Baseball Coach of the Year honor.
Not everything this year was about wins and losses. The candidates were many, even in an unusual season. Bonneville made a late-season run to a district title and reached the 4A state consolation game with a young lineup. The local competition in 4A District 6 was fierce, as Skyline and Blackfoot each emerged as title contenders, before being knocked off by the Bees and an upstart Hillcrest team.
South Fremont had to down Sugar-Salem to reach another 3A state tournament.
In 2A, Firth was the only local team to bring back a trophy from the state tournament after the Cougars won the consolation game.
“To the victor goes the spoils,” Skyline’s Brett Taylor said of Idaho Falls’ Trent Johnson, this year’s Post Register All-Area Baseball Coach of the Year.
The Tigers, who made the 4A state title game the last time there was a season two years ago, were loaded, as evidenced by landing seven players on the High Country Conference first team. And that’s not including Player of the Year Jaxon Sorenson.
Taylor noted that a talented lineup can sometimes be more challenging to manage.
“He did a good job managing who he had,” Taylor said.
The Tigers finished 25-6 with the 25 wins leading the state in 5A. They also defeated eventual 5A state champion Timberline during the regular season, but a 12-inning loss to Mountain View in the state tournament opener proved hard to overcome.