Team Preview: Pleasant Grove HS


Jeff Scholzen
Utah Scouting Director

Team Preview: Pleasant Grove HS

Players in Utah have been eager to compete for their high school programs and it feels as if we are getting close. 2020 saw the cancellation of the 2020 season, however as may approached, it began looking like Utah was going to be able to resume baseball activities with the annual American Legion season. The UHSAA has announced that the first day of official team practice/tryouts will be Monday March 1st, with the opening day of the 2021 season on March 8th. Programs have been allowed to practice since the 1st part of January, with open field workouts, however there will be a two week moratorium of practices and coach involvement, between the dates of Feb 15-28. PBR Utah will begin its 2021 season coverage starting with our team by team previews, as we highlight some of the top programs statewide 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 will be pumping out coverage, highlighting individual players, games, rankings, scouting reports and nominating a player of the week. PBR 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 the kick off to the season, as it's an INVITE only event of the top players in the 2021-2024 classes.

School History: Pleasant Grove High School was established in 1912. It started in a small one-room building. Additional rooms were eventually added on due to the increasing number of students. The former location was the city's old recreational center. The school was eventually moved to a larger building half a mile away, built in 1959. The new building was not quite large enough, so the 9th grade stayed with the junior high school.

In 1921, a group of seniors put a block letter "G" on Little Mountain west of Mount Timpanogos. The first time the G was lit was in 1929. In 1984 the G was nearly taken down because of maintenance fees. The student body fought to keep the G standing and raised enough money to keep it from being taken down. From then on “G Day” was celebrated as a Pleasant Grove holiday. It was later removed from holiday status because the grass on the football field was being destroyed by the people celebrating. The G is lit every year for special occasions such as homecoming and graduation.

Program History: The Vikings are one of the perennial powerhouse baseball programs in the state, as they have won 5 state championships in their illustrious history, with 2 of those as recently as 2015 and 2019. Ironically the first state championship in school history was 1987, as Coach Darrin Henry was a player on that team, and other than the 1994 and 1998 titles, Coach Henry has factored in 3 of the 5 titles in school history. The tradition all started with Hall of Fame coach, Jon Hoover, who guided the Vikings to the 1994 and 1998 titles. Coach Hoover would have been a part of the first ever title in his nearly 40 year coaching career in 1987, but took a sabbatical for a year, to coach the BYU JV baseball team. Hoover would retire from teaching after 30 years, and found his way to Cottonwood HS to coach only, and won the state championship at the 4A/5A levels from 2005-2008, culminating in being named 2008 National HS Coach of the Year. In all, Coach Hoover won 6 state championships and was just recently passed by American Fork/Timpanogos coaching legend, Kim Nelson as the winningest coach in Utah state history, with nearly 600 coaching victories.

Now in his 10th year, Coach Darrin Henry is making his state wide presence known, as he is manifesting the same kind of early successes that could translate into a storied career of his own. In just the past decade, the Vikings have appeared in the 5A/6A state tourney nine times, with three final four appearances. In those three years, Henry’s clubs have played for the state title each time and won it as mentioned in 2015 and most recently in 2019. So with the pandemic shutting down the 2020 season, the Vikings are essentially the defending 6A state champs. It’s not just winning that comes with coaching at one of the best programs in the state, but it’s also sending on many players to play at the collegiate level and beyond. Every year the program sends players to various levels of college baseball, with 2-3 per year at the D1 level and the occasional professional player as well.

(Pleasant Grove players celebrate after capturing the 2019 6A State Championship)

(Payton Henry, Pleasant Grove 2016)

(Darrin and Payton Henry, Carolina Mudcats 2019)

Minor League Baseball and Rawlings Sporting Goods presents

Carolina Mudcats catcher Payton Henry with his 2018 Minor League Gold Glove Award


Of the players that have been sent on to play at the next level, one stands out among the rest, and he’s a familiar name not only to Pleasant Grove baseball fans, but fans of baseball in the state as a whole. That player is former 2-time Utah Gatorade Player of the Year and Baseball America 1st Team All-American catcher Payton Henry. Payton is the son of Coach Henry and was also awarded the prestigious title of Utah’s “Mr. Baseball” in 2016, when he was drafted in the 6th Rd by the Milwaukee Brewers by scout Jeff Scholzen and with his signing a professional baseball contract, Payton turned down a scholarship to play collegiately at Brigham Young U.

Payton has gone on to big time success thus far at the various stops of the minor leagues in his pursuit of playing at the games highest level. A two-time minor league all-star at the Class A levels of the Midwest and Carolina Leagues, Payton has also dotted the many top 30 organizational prospect lists for the Brewers and has been invited to MLB spring training as a non roster invite for the past 3 years now. In addition to these accomplishments, Payton was also awarded the 2018 MiLB Rawlings Gold Glove Award for defensive excellence, as well as being named the Baseball America Defensive Player of the Year at catcher in 2019. With continued health and a bit more seasoning, it won’t be long before we see Payton at the major league level and when that happens, I will be seated in a stadium right next to his family when that day comes.

With the story of the past in our minds, we now take a look to the future and what players to look for in the next few years coming out of Pleasant Grove.

(Coach Darrin Henry celebrating with his team, after winning the 2019 6A State Championship)

 

Head Coach: Darrin Henry (10th Year)

State Classification/Region: 6A / Region 4

Number of State Tourney Appearance in last 10 Years: 9

Number of Final 4 State Tourney Appearances: 3

Number of State Titles games in the last 10 Years: 3

Number of State Titles in the last 10 Years: 2

Number of Returning Position Players: 5

Number of Returning Pitchers: 4


Expectations for Upcoming Season:

“We expect to compete for a deep run into the State Tournament.”

Team Strengths:

“Pitching and a deep lineup.”

Team Weaknesses:

“We have a few position players without much varsity experience that will be expected to fill major roles on the team.”


Top Returning Players:


2021 Ty Johnsen, C, 6-3 200 R-R (Gonzaga commit)

A tall, lean athletic frame with projectable size and strength. Johnsen has the prototype next level look, with a quick bat and now power, to go along with a presence on the field that warrants your eyes to find him.

2021 Kyler Lester, SS/ RHP (BYU Commit)

According to Coach Henry, Lester has made huge strides and on the mound is working in the 91 MPH range and could really turn the corner this spring, as he heads to Brigham Young come fall semester.

2021 Jordan Pace, 3B/RHP 5-11 190 (Ottawa U. Commit)

Pace was 84-88 last summer and into the fall, and has now made some big strides over the winter and is now working in the 88-92 range with the FB. Pace will be at our preseason All-State event in Hurricane, UT on March 6th and I’m really looking forward to seeing the progress he’s made lately.

2021 Riley Thomas, P/ OF (Lane CC Commit)

2023 Brayden Marx, RHP - Will be in attendance at the preseason All-State event on March 6th in Hurricane, UT

2022 Tate Lewis, 1B/3B/C

2023 Ryker Schow, INF/OF

2022 Conner Bancroft, UTL/P

2022 Sam Haynie, OF

SUMMARY:

With the 2020 season cut short after 2 games, Pleasant Grove will bring a deep American Legion playoff run from last summer into the 2021 spring with Johnsen, Lester and Pace a year older, but losing their junior seasons. They were able to get ample summer experience to make up for the lost time and will look to carry the load from a deep and talented 2019 state title team, that was led by Utah’s “Mr. Baseball” award winner, Brock Watkins, SS, who is now a sophomore starter at crosstown BYU. Expectations will be high as they always are for the Vikings, and winning is in their blood, so expect the same state contending type club from Coach Henry and his squad as the season is just 3 weeks away.