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Utah HS Team Preview: Crimson Cliffs


Jeff Scholzen
Utah Scouting Director

Utah HS Team Preview: Crimson Cliffs

Opening Day is around the corner, try outs have been scheduled starting Feb 28th, and rosters are soon to be set. The Utah High School Activities Association has announced that opening day of the 2022 season will commence on Tuesday March 7th. The PBR Utah staff begins its 2022 season coverage with our annual preseason team previews, where we will take notes from coaches, and highlight returning players, newcomers, and some sleepers. Over the next couple weeks and leading up to opening day, we will be highlighting some of the top programs in the state in our team previews. 

PBR Utah will also be publishing its state Power 25 rankings that will be updated every Monday once the season begins. Throughout the season, PBR Utah will be pumping out coverage, highlighting individual players, games, rankings, scouting reports and nominating a player of the week. PBR Utah looks forward to getting out there this spring to see some great baseball. 

Of Note: As we countdown to opening day with the team previews, we still have one big event to kick off the HS season with the PBR Utah Preseason All-State. This event will be loaded with 61 of the top uncommitted players, along with 20 committed players, as it's an INVITE only event of the top players in the 2022-2025 classes. 

      

School History: The school is appropriately named after the beautiful red rock colored scenery of St. George, Utah. With majestic Pine Valley mountain in the background with the foreground of the crimson colored “Red Cliffs” sprawling throughout the Valley, southern Utah is known for its lakes, rivers, mountains, national parks, hiking, biking and back road adventures. To the millions who visit this area of the country, it’s known as “Color Country” and “Utah’s Dixie”. 

Recent Coaching/Team History: Crimson Cliffs is headed by two very experienced baseball minds in Head Coach, Justin Abbott (former SLCC/Southern Utah U, RHP and Texas Rangers farm hand) along with Mike Gargano (former Dixie College and St. Louis Cardinals RHP). 

The two coaches started the SBA Rebels, a well run travel ball organization years ago in the local area. The Rebels had teams ranging from 8U-14U. Gargano is also a former head coach at local Pine View HS as they won two 3A state titles in 2015-2016 with Dakota Donovan (current Angels minor league RHP) leading the efforts. Gargano then took his coaching abilities across town to Dixie State U, as their pitching coach, for one season and tutored Dylan File, RHP, who is a member of the Milwaukee Brewers 40 man MLB roster and has a chance to make his MLB debut sometime this season. 

We now break down the Mustangs with our team capsule below:

It all starts with a group of hitters that have grown in the program and have been staples since their freshman truncated season in 2020. 

We start with 2023 Petey Soto, SS/RHP, who has been a starter since his freshman year. Soto committed to Dixie State last September and was a member of Team Utah at the prestigious PBR Future Games in Atlanta. Soto is a VERY smooth acrobatic defender at SS, with soft hands and a quick lower ½. Soto impresses with an above average arm and throws cloth lines across the infield. Soto is only 5-10 150, but has a lightning quick bat and can drive balls out of the park to the pull side. 

The biggest bat of the bunch, is 2024 Trey Evans, LF, who has a D1 power 5 offer on the table from last fall and was a member of Team Utah at the PBR Future Games in Atlanta, and will be returning again this coming summer.  Evans hit in the all important 3 hole as a freshman and put up spectacular numbers for a freshman, as it led to being named 1st Team All-Region and 1st Team All-State. Pretty impressive for a freshman. Look for now/future, for Evans to be a leading contender for Region 10 Player of the Year honors. 

The glue behind the plate is 2023 Brexten Starley, C/RHP, who saw most of his action a year ago as part of the starting rotation and 1B. This year with added depth and experience from the group as a whole, Starley will be behind the plate full time and possibly close games out on the mound. Strong as an ox, Starley has an above average arm for the high school level and will keep the running game in check, while providing a big bat in the middle of the Mustangs order. 

Lineup staple and College of Southern Idaho commit, 2022 Logan West, CF, provides an all-field line drive bat that can manipulate the bat head and go with pitches in any direction. West has a solid baseball IQ, as he’s played quality competition in summer baseball for years and brings that experience as a senior and should have a very good year with the bat. 

The Mustangs have depth throughout the lineup, with pitching depth as well, led by 2023 Jaiven Ross, LHP who will be called upon to pitch the more important games during the season. A crafty lefty with a big CB and solid depth, Ross mixes and matches pitches and throws K’s. After Ross, many hurlers will get the ball, and with Soto and Starley on hand to get innings, the Mustangs could see their first postseason in their short 3 year school history. 

(Crimson Cliffs - 2020 PBR Utah Fall Prospect ID)

(Crimson Cliffs - 2020 PBR Utah Fall Prospect ID)

Crimson Cliffs by the Numbers:

Head Coach: Justin Abbott (3rd Year)

State Classification/Region: 4A / Region 10

Last Year's Record: 16-12

Number of State Tourney Appearance in last 10 Years: 0

Number of Final 4 State Tourney Appearances: 0

Number of State Titles games in the last 10 Years: 0

Number of State Titles in the last 10 Years: 0

Top Returning Players: 

  • 2022 Logan West, CF (CSI commit)

  • 2023 Jayger Baldwin, RF

  • 2024 Trey Evans, LF (D1 offer)

  • 2023 Brexten Starley, C/RHP (JC offer)

  • 2023 Pete Soto, SS/RHP (Dixie State U commit)

  • 2023 Beau Sampson, LHP

  • 2023 Jaiven Ross, LHP

  • 2024 Tyler West, OF

  • 2023 Ty Maynard, 3B

  • 2023 AJ Johnson, 1B

  • 2022 Jayz Estridge (Luther College commit)

Who is your X-Factor?

Pitching and Defense

Young players who have College potential down the road

  • See Top Returning Players 

Returning All-Region/All-State Players

(1st Team All-Region/1st Team All-State)

  • 2024 Trey Evans, LF

Coaches Summary and Outlook

“We're looking forward to getting the year going. Playing again in a tough region 10 will challenge us on a weekly basis. We need to come out and pitch well and play solid defense, which will be key for this team, so we are playing our best baseball at the end of the season.”

— Coach Justin Abbott

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