It was a memorable sophomore season on the mound for Spenser Triplett, who parlayed his success at junior college power South Mountain into a Division I opportunity at Utah Valley University.

Nevertheless, the Cougars will still have a Triplett on their roster when the 2019 season rolls around. That’s because Triplett’s younger brother Shawn, who just completed a successful senior season at Ridgeline, has signed with the Phoenix-based program.

“Oh, that makes me incredibly excited,” Spenser Triplett said of his younger brother. “He’s a great player and I think he has much more potential than me, so I’m very excited for him to go down and spent two years at a junior college, instead of just getting one because I grew more at South Mountain than I ever could have imagined, and that was just one year. I think two years for him and he’ll turn into something real special.”

South Mountain went 46-15 this past season, won 17 straight games at one point and handily claimed a conference title with a record of 30-6. An impressive 12 players on the Cougars’ 2018 roster signed with D-I programs.

“It was absolutely unreal,” said Spenser, who was The Herald Journal All-Valley Baseball Player of the Year as a senior at Mountain Crest in 2016. “Our pitching staff down there, all seven sophomores are committed or signed to D-I schools and that’s something that doesn’t really happen very often. And the guys down there were absolutely fantastic. The junior college atmosphere, especially at South Mountain where we’re so competitive, offers a great place for you to go and grow as a player. Because there’s so much competition around you, you have no choice but to either get better or get out.”

As a sophomore, Spenser pitched in 13 games, where he struck out 16 and walked six in 15 innings. The Providence native spent his freshman year at NAIA program Goshen (Indiana) College, where he broke the single season school record with seven saves. Spenser fanned 35 and walked 15 in 30 innings, and also won a pair of games.

Spenser enjoyed his time with the Maple Leafs, where he also got to play at third base. However, the son of Jan and Daniel Triplett ultimately determined it was “too hard financially” to continuing paying for college at a private school, even with a partial athletic/academic scholarship.

A former coach put Spenser in touch with South Mountain head coach Todd Eastin and the rest is history. Spenser admitted he “was kind of scrambling all over the place last summer looking for a place to play” closer to home before receiving help from his former coach.

Spenser will pitch at UVU, which went 15-37, including 6-18 in the Western Athletic Conference, this past spring.

“It’s been quite the journey playing college baseball,” Spenser said. “This will be my third year of playing and I never thought that this would be the place that I would end up, but I’m really grateful to be this close to home and close to the people I care about.”

Likewise, Shawn is very excited for his older brother.

“It’s been really exciting just to see how much he’s grown since he’s been out and just the kind of player and person he is,” Shawn said. “He’s always been a really big example and I’ve looked up to him always, so it’s nice to have him as my brother.”

Shawn shined as a senior at Ridgeline, where he garnered second-team all-state and first-team all-region honors. Shawn led all Cache Valley players with 64 strikeouts, paced the Riverhawks in innings pitched with 44.2 and ranked second on the team with a 3.29 ERA.

Additionally, Shawn finished first or second on his team in several categories at the plate, including on-base percentage (.457), batting average (.355), RBIs (15) and doubles (seven). Shawn was recruited as a pitcher by South Mountain.

“I’m really excited,” Shawn said. “It’s a junior college, but it’s a really competitive junior college and they’re really good at sending their players to big, D-I schools, so I’m very excited to go down there and prove myself and see what the future has to bring.”

Shawn made it a point to thank “all of the people who have helped me get here. I really appreciate all of them because without them I wouldn’t be as good of a player or person.”

Former MC players shine

In addition to Spenser Triplett, two other former Mustangs signed with four-year collegiate programs after faring well at the JUCO level this spring. Ben Weese sparkled at Salt Lake Community College and secured several D-I offers before signing with BYU. Jarrett Hunt had a big sophomore year at USU Eastern and has signed with NAIA program William Penn University.

Weese was a second-team all-region selection at pitcher after leading SLCC in most major categories. The River Heights native went 9-1 with a 3.15 ERA in his second season with the Bruins, who went 36-18 in ’18, including 21-10 in their region. The son of Diane and Mark Weese struck out 66 and walked 29 in 68.2 innings.

“We had a really good team, so the 9-1 (record), that’s a reflection of a good, solid team, and it was fun,” said Weese, who was a relief pitcher as a freshman. “We played as a team well and it was fun to have a little bit of success in those categories. ... SLCC was amazing, a good stepping stone. I love the coaches, love all of my teammates and honestly I have nothing bad to say about that program. It’s a wonderful program and it was a good time there.”

Weese had offers from Virginia Tech, Pepperdine, UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Bakersfield and UVU, among other programs, but the decision to go to BYU was a pretty easy one.

“As far as sports goes, it’s a dream come true,” said Weese, who was a first-team all-state honoree as a senior at MC. “I mean, every day as a little kid you dream about playing Division I baseball, and for me BYU has always been the dream, so I’m super excited to be able to go and perform, and perform at a high level too. ... I’m excited to go to BYU and have another chance to play the game I love, and we’ll see where that takes me.”

The Cougars went 22-28 overall and 11-16 in the West Coast Conference in ’18. Former Mountain Crest star Rhett Parkinson pitched 35 innings this past season for BYU, where he went 1-1, fanned 34, walked nine and posted a 3.34 ERA in 35 innings.

Hunt spent his first two seasons at USU Eastern, which went 22-28, 14-17 in conference play, in ’18. The son of Loy Ann and James Hunt earned first-team all-league accolades at first base after batting .346, with seven doubles, 25 runs and 24 RBIs. He tallied a gaudy on-base percentage of .453.

The southpaw also fared well on the mound as he struck out 22 and posted an ERA of 3.15 in 34.1 innings. Hunt is excited to play for Mike Laird, who has won 947 games in 35 seasons as William Penn’s head coach.

“He wanted me to come and showed a lot of interest in me,” Hunt said in a press release. “He has been there for (more than) 30 years and has had 15 30-win seasons and has appeared in the World Series on multiple occasions, and is a really respected individual and coach.”

Hunt, a second-team all-state pick as a senior at Mountain Crest, will be joined at the Iowa-based university by former USU Eastern teammate Chase Stratton. Three other teammates signed with four-year programs.

“We are very proud of both Jarrett and Chase,” USU Eastern coach Scott Madsen said. “They worked hard over the past two years to get the opportunity to play at the next level. They will be impactful players for William Penn for the next two years.”

Trio of Bobcats

Three players from Sky View’s Region 12 title-winning team from ’18 will showcase their talents at JUCO programs this upcoming academic year. First-team all-region selections Cooper Kunz and Eric Carter will play at USU Eastern, while Dygert will compete at SLCC. All three former Bobcats had other collegiate offers.

Kunz will enter his freshman season with plenty of confidence after shining in the Northern Utah League for the Providence Wolverines this summer. In 18 games with the Wolverines, the Smithfield native batted .529, posted an on-base percentage of .593, scored 19 runs, drove in 16 runs, doubled seven times and only struck out three times.

“With the Wolverines, I saw a lot of collegiate level pitching that ... I thought I could do OK against, but I didn’t think I could do as well as I did,” Kunz said. “And I think that opened my eyes to the potential of me being able to really not only play in college, but succeed to some point. ... This season with the Wolverines has propelled me into working a lot harder to be the best baseball player I can be because I realized what potential I do have.”

The son of Roseann and Drue Kunz was arguably the best defensive catcher in Region 12 and one of the league’s top pitchers as a senior for the Bobcats, who won 13 straight games this past season. Kunz paced Sky View in innings pitched (46.1), was second in strikeouts (46) and finished with a 2.71 ERA.

Offensively, Kunz ranked second on the squad with 22 RBIs, belted a pair of home runs and had an on-base percentage of .367. His older brother Jesse was a star on the 2004 squad — the last Sky View team to capture a region championship.

“It’s a pretty cool thing, especially since I’ve played with eight of those kids since I was 10 years old,” said Kunz, who wrote the goal of becoming a collegiate baseball player under the brim of one of his caps when he was 12 years old. “... We all came together as a Sky View team and played with a lot of pride for our school and not necessarily for the names on the back, but it’s a pretty special thing to be region champs after a long drought like that.”

Dygert concurred.

“It was very fun,” Dygert said. “It kind of was a bummer at the end when we lost two of our last three games, and I ended up being the losing pitcher for that. That wasn’t so fun, but during the regular season, we just had a blast winning a bunch of games, winning region and just having fun as a team.”

Kunz made it a point to thank “a whole laundry list” of people for helping him achieve his objective, including the Jensen brothers, Clay Carter, Todd Phillips, Jordan Hansen, Tyler Walters, Trever Allen and Justin Allen — all coaches — and his “parents and friends.”

Carter considered accepting an offer from the College of Idaho, an NAIA program based out of Caldwell, but ultimately decided it was too far away from home and “I just didn’t think it was for me.” The North Logan native felt USU Eastern was a better fit.

“I think the JUCO route is really good for baseball players in college and it’s not too far from home, but far enough that I can kind of get away from everything,” Carter said. “It’s a great opportunity and I’m excited about it.”

Like Kunz and Dygert, Carter showed his mettle at the plate and on the mound for the Bobcats this past spring. As a senior, the son of Dianne and Clay Carter led Sky View with a 2.02 ERA and only walked 11 batters in 45 innings on the bump. Carter, Dygert and Kunz all won a team-leading five games.

Offensively, Carter, who went 5-1 on the mound, ranked in the top four for the Bobcats in batting average (.329), on-base percentage (.438) and RBIs (17).

Carter has had aspirations of playing at the next level since he was about 10 years old and is looking forward to proving himself with the Golden Eagles.

“If I play really well, then I feel like I’ll have a good shot to move up in baseball,” Carter said. “I don’t know how far I’ll get, but we’ll see how it goes and I’ll just do my best.”

Likewise, Dygert has envisioned himself playing college baseball for quite some time, but didn’t really think that dream might become a reality until his junior season with the Bobcats. The Clarkston native was Sky View’s No. 1 pitcher as a junior and senior, and made the All-Valley team both seasons.

As a senior, the son of Stephanie and Daniel Dygert led the Bobcats and ranked second among all local prep players with 51 strikeouts. He recorded a 3.20 ERA.

Offensively, Dygert was also rock solid as he finished second on the team in batting average (.377) and on-base percentage (.446), and drove in 14 runs.

“I’ve always wanted to play college baseball and the dream’s finally coming true, and especially at SLCC, where they produce a lot of D-I caliber players that come out of there,” Dygert said. “It’s pretty cool to be going to a good program like that.”

Feinauer’s career revived

Cody Feinauer, who graduated from Ridgeline in 2017, thought his baseball career was over following high school, but his aspirations have been revived.

The Providence native was living in Texas and doing summer sales when he was contacted by a coach who watched him play in the state tournament as a senior. That coach invited Feinauer to compete in a summer league, comprised primarily of current and past college players, in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Feinauer elected to accept the offer and made the 30-plus-hour drive in his vehicle to the east coast. The son of Allison and Jeff Feinauer fared well in the summer league, where he was coached by a member of the Arkansas Baptist College coaching staff.

“Toward the end of the season in Virginia Beach, he was like, ‘Hey man, I know it’s kind of last minute, but we’re looking for some more guys to join our team. I’d love to have you come out,’” Feinauer said.

Feinauer originally committed to the junior college based out of Little Rock, but is now mulling over an offer to play for Utah State’s club team. Feinauer played in a few games for the Hyrum Hornets this summer and is currently “leaning a little bit more toward Utah State, just because in the long run it’s going to be a lot smarter financially.”

Regardless of what decision he makes, Feinauer — who has been accepted into both schools — is grateful his passion for the sport has been rekindled.

“Honestly, it’s kind of a blessing in disguise because when I ended up not playing baseball, college ball, last year after I graduated, I was kind of like, ‘OK, it’s whatever. I had a good senior year, (so) I’ll leave on a good note,’” Feinauer said. “And then I didn’t think I would miss it as much as I did. (But) the more time went on, I thought, ‘Dang, I miss it. I should have worked harder in the recruiting process, I should have put myself out there more.’ And then out of nowhere, the coach texted me and next thing you know, I was in Virginia Beach playing baseball and getting some (college) offers to play.”

As a senior at Ridgeline, Feinauer led all local prep players with 31 RBIs. He tied for the team lead in homers (three), doubled eight times and batted .318 en route to earning first-team All-Valley honors.

jturner@hjnews.com Twitter: hjtrebek

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.