NORTH LOGAN — He played just one season at Green Canyon, but oh what a season it was.
Zack Geertsen moved north and became a Wolf because of Chinese — the language that is. He couldn’t reach his goals in the language at Corner Canyon High School in Draper. He had ties here since his dad is a Cache Valley native, so he moved for his senior year.
“I had a big educational opportunity up here,” Geertsen said. “I speak Chinese and wanted to pursue my minor in Chinese at Utah State. That was the biggest reason.”
Geertsen had the opportunity to tutor the freshman class at Green Canyon for college credits and then also attended advanced level classes on the USU campus. He and his father both credited Green Canyon and USU for working with him to get his minor completed before he even starts college.
So, how did he end up interested in the Chinese language — Mandarin to be more specific?
“That’s a great question,” Geertsen answered. “Draper Elementary offered the dual-language immersion program and I was a pretty good student in kindergarten and first grade, so my mom said let’s throw you in Chinese to give you something difficult that will challenge you. Thirteen years later I’m still doing it.
“I don’t know what I want to do with it. I’ve considered international business or international law. I’ve also considered something to do with sports.”
Not only is the 18-year-old fluent in Chinese, the son of Rob and Natalie Geertsen excels on the baseball diamond as well. He was a big addition to the Wolves this past season.
“Zack made a huge difference in our program this year,” GC head coach Ryan Eborn said. “I feel very fortunate to have been able to coach him, even if it was just for his senior year.”
Geertsen certainly made the most of his lone season with the Wolves. While Green Canyon started the 2022 campaign strong, there were some struggles during region play. However, the Wolves were one of just two teams in Region 11 to beat region champion Bear River.
“It was an awesome experience playing at Green Canyon,” Geertsen said. “It was kind of weird because my dad said everyone is going to know everyone. Back where I used to play, I didn’t know anybody we played against. Up here after games guys from the other team would talk with each other. I became good friends with some Sky View guys, players from Ridgeline and Mountain Crest.”
Despite finishing fourth in the region, the Wolves ended up being the last team from the valley to be eliminated at the 4A state tournament. Geertsen played a big role in Green Canyon making it as far as it did, tying for fifth.
“I knew after he played a few summer games with us the previous year that he would be a solid contributor to our team, but I didn’t fully realize just how big his impact would end up being,” Eborn said. “Obviously, his hitting statistics speak for themselves, but they don’t put into perspective how his bat in the lineup made everyone else’s better.”
In this year of the Tiger on the Chinese calendar, it is a Wolf that is being honored as the 2022 Herald Journal All-Valley Player of the Year. Geertsen becomes the first Green Canyon player to earn the award.
“I pride myself on being a hard worker,” said Geertsen, who was also a first-team all-state honoree and a first-team all-region athlete. “When you get awards, it shows you that your hard work is paying off.”
He was first on the team in every major statistical category, including batting average (.481), on-base percentage (.551), slugging percentage (.775), hits (47), doubles (15), home runs (4), RBIs (31) and runs (30). Geertsen does point out he only had one triple and was not fast enough to lead in stolen bases, as he had three on the year.
Geertsen mostly played defensively at third base, but also spent some time at first, shortstop and on the pitcher’s mound. He enjoys the hot corner the most.
“I like being on my toes constantly,” Geertsen said. “The slow roller plays where you have to bare hand it and get rid of it quick, I love those. I also love knocking down those 100-mile rockets at your face. You never know what you are going to get.”
“Zack is a competitor and is always trying to be better at this game,” Eborn said. “Not only was he a cage rat, but he is one of the most cerebral hitters I’ve ever coached. It seems like even when he got out, he was having quality at-bats. He constantly worked counts to five, six, seven pitches until he got the pitch he was looking for and then he would do damage. He is a double machine and generates incredible bat speed through the zone. Besides his hitting, he played solid defense for us at both corner positions and helped deepen our pitching rotation as well.”
He had not pitched in a varsity game until this season. He made 10 appearances on the bump, throwing for 26.2 innings. He had 25 strikeouts, 17 walks and ERA of 4.20. The senior had a record of 2-3 and recorded one save.
“I came up not knowing if I would pitch or not, but got to start the third game of the season,” Geertsen said. “I can throw strikes. ... I do enjoy pitching. It’s fun.”
Being the new guy didn’t seem to bother Geertsen at all. In fact, he made friends fast and has no regrets about his decision.
“This was my favorite season I’ve ever had,” Geertsen said. “Overall from a team standpoint, I’ve never been closer to a group of guys and had more fun than I did with Green Canyon this year.”
The Wolves did finish the regular season by winning four straight games and began the state playoffs with a sweep of Mountain Crest in a first round, best-of-three series in Hyrum. Green Canyon beat the Mustangs 14-5 and 3-2, rallying for two runs in the seventh to force extra innings and winning in eight. Geertsen had a grand slam in the first game against Mountain Crest.
“Mountain Crest had swept us the three games in region, but we went into those two games knowing we are as good as them,” Geertsen said. “We had all the confidence in the world. ... I still don’t know how we won that second game. It was one heck of a game.”
He called the 3-2 come-from-behind victory against the Mustangs “the biggest win of the season.”
Individually, the season opener in a St. George tournament against his former team was also a big win. Green Canyon beat Corner Canyon, 5-2, to begin 2022. The Wolves, who finished with a 17-13 record, opened the year by winning five of their first seven games.
“We started on fire,” Geertsen said. “It was awesome.”
Coming up with the toughest loss was hard for the teenager.
“It was either the final (state tournament) game against Pine View (6-5 in eight innings), which was really tough for me, or I would say the third game against Ridgeline (10-9 in eight innings) was really tough,” Geertsen said. “We kept hanging in that Ridgeline game. (Nick) Bouck pitched a great game, and the sticks were working, but the ball just didn’t roll our way at the end.”
Geertsen had a two-run homer against Pine View as the Wolves rallied from down 5-0 in the sixth to force an extra inning.
Geertsen started playing the game he loves at the tender age of three. He grew up interested in the statistics of the game — the numbers.
“Baseball has a lot of numbers, a lot of stats,” Geertsen said. “The numbers fascinated me. In terms of playing the game, probably when I was 10 (which was) when I got into super league is when I really started liking the game.”
Being a numbers guy, is there a statistic that means more to him?
“I would say home runs and doubles because that’s when you know you are hitting the ball far,” Geertsen said.
The 6-foot-3 athlete has played some recreation league basketball, but his focus has been all on baseball. Earlier this week he signed to play at Big Bend (Washington) Community College.
“He was a great teammate and always pushed his teammates to compete,” Eborn said. “He’ll be a great player at Big Bend next year. I can’t wait to follow him and see how far he takes himself in this game.”
Geertsen was a Sterling Scholar at Green Canyon in world languages and earned Academic All-State accolades in baseball. How would he like to be remembered at Green Canyon?
“I just want to be remembered as a good person, someone who is friendly and nice to people,” Geertsen said. “I don’t care too much how I did on the baseball field. I want people to think of me as a really good person.”
Trey Purser, So., Ridgeline
This Riverhawk certainly did his part to help Ridgeline be competitive in the region. In his first year at the varsity level, Purser flat out performed and earned first-team all-state honors.
“Especially early in region play Trey came up with the big hit when we needed it most and he got that hit often,” Ridgeline head coach Justin Jensen said. “I know the other teams respected him and pitched him differently. I feel like he handled it very well for a sophomore. He is respected by his teammates and looked at as a leader and someone they could count on.”
The sophomore third baseman led the Riverhawks in hitting (.471), on-base percentage (.563), slugging (.764), hits (32), RBIs (36) and home runs (4). He was second in triples (2) and bases on balls (14). Purser also scored 22 runs, had four doubles and stole six bases. He only struck out seven times in 87 plate appearances.
“Trey handled the pressure very well,” Jensen said. “As well as Trey played in the spring, he has grown as a hitter and baseball player. Trey is a better and more mature player this summer. It will be fun to watch him grow over the next two seasons.”
Davon Inglet, Jr., Preston
When the Indians needed a big hit, this junior seemed to produce most of the time. He proved to be a team leader in many ways for Preston.
“Davon is a student of the game and is always trying to find ways to improve,” Preston head coach Kenny Inglet said. “He plays with a lot of tenacity that filters into his teammates.”
Being a coach’s son is never easy, but Davon proved he belonged by leading the Indians in many statistical categories. He paced Preston in hitting (.537), on-base percentage (.579), slugging (.835), hits (36), RBIs (36), stolen bases (12) and triples (4). The junior, who played second, catcher and pitched, was second on the team in home runs (2) and fielding percentage (.971). He also had six doubles, scored 22 times and drew eight bases on walks. Davon only struck out three times in 77 plate appearances.
“He is composed and consistent at the plate,” coach Inglet said. “He is a game-changer when he is behind the plate.”
Davon pitched in three games, totaling 6.1 innings. He struck out 14, walked three and had an ERA of 3.32.
Nathan Rowley, Sr., Mountain Crest
Last year’s Newcomer of the Year kept right on improving for the Mustangs. In fact, the senior stepped up to fill the void of many graduated teammates from the previous season.
“After losing 10 seniors last year, we needed Nathan to step up and be a leader for us, and he did that,” MC head coach Trace Hansen said. “He had a very solid year on the mound for us and always gave us a chance to win. Nate was willing to step up and play wherever needed, including playing some outfield because of some key injuries throughout the year.”
The solid infielder as a junior certainly had more of a role this past season. He finished with a fielding percentage of .920 as he had 23 putouts and 57 assists, which ranked second on his team. Rowley led the team with 54.2 innings pitched and was also first among the Mustangs with 34 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.81. He had a 3-4 record on the mound.
The senior also led his team in hitting at .359, hits (23), tied for first in RBIs (15) and was second with 18 runs scored. He finished with five doubles, two home runs and had an on-base percentage of .406. Rowley earned second-team all-state accolades for the second straight season.
“He had a great year for us at the plate and came up with some big hits in some key situations,” Hansen said. “Nate has worked extremely hard to become the ballplayer he is today. I’m excited to follow him playing at the next level.”
Earlier this week, Rowley signed to play at Lassen (California) Community College, where he will be a two-way player.