CLEARFIELD — The sky was gunmetal gray, the air was cold, snow covered the mountains to the east, cars rumbled on the freeway nearby and Utah was waking up from winter.
It was early March and the start of the 2018 baseball season. Clearfield High pitcher Bryson Hirabayashi was already in the middle of throwing a no-hitter.
Head coach Steve Ross, then in his first game as the Falcons’ head coach, went to the pitcher’s mound to chat with Hirabayashi.
As soon as the no-no was over, Ross said, he was getting pulled because he didn’t want him throwing a ton of pitches so early in the year.
The next at-bat, Hirabayashi gave up a hit. He looked at Ross and laughed. Hirabayashi completed six innings and left with 16 strikeouts.
Later that season, Hirabayashi would indeed get a no-hitter in a 1-0 win over Layton where he struck out 15.
For some reason, he says, he thought he gave up a base hit early in the game. So when the final out was recorded and some of the players started running toward him, he was confused.
“I was just happy about the win because it was 1-0 and it was a really tight game,” Hirabayashi said.
Hirabayashi doesn’t look like the prototypical pitcher. He’s listed at 5-foot-8, 140 pounds on Clearfield High’s baseball roster. He says it’s more like 5-7.
So he had to use every single ounce to throw a fastball in the mid-to-high 80-mph range.
“I’ve always been smaller than everyone else, but it’s never been because I’m smaller, ‘Well I can’t do that,’ it’s, ‘I could do that too,’” Hirabayashi said.
Where he excelled was locating and mixing the fastball with a curveball, slider and changeup, giving opposing batters hardly a chance to figure out what was coming next.
He would always make adjustments to his grip or really anything he could change in the slightest way if it gave him a leg up. He did a lot of long toss and weight training.
There weren’t a whole lot, if any, days off in the offseason or the regular season.
“That speaks to the work ethic to constantly tweak and fine tune to get the most out of every pitch that you have,” Ross said.
En route to 2019 Standard-Examiner All-Area Baseball Most Valuable Player honors, Hirabayashi was impressive once again this season, posting a 6-3 record with a 2.28 ERA in 58 1/3 innings pitched.
Perhaps most impressive is his 89 strikeouts against a paltry 26 walks. Opposing batters hit just .158 against him this season.
“At the beginning of the year I told myself I was going to do the best I can, get out there and just make it fun. That helped out mentally to kind of calm down and relax,” Hirabayashi said.
He also batted .312 with 21 runs batted in and six doubles, a big step up from last season’s .212 average. Teams could no longer see him as an easy out and his defense in the infield (he played third base and second base on non-pitching days) improved vastly.
“I felt like I was more comfortable. Having that experience from last year was a lot more helpful,” Hirabayashi said.
A lot was asked of him this season, particularly once the Falcons met Davis in the third series of the season.
Hirabayashi threw 6 2/3 innings in a shutout win over Davis, then threw 5 1/3 frames against Northridge five days later, then tossed six innings against Davis three days later.
“We always worry about that because the last thing we want to do is put a kid in a situation where they get hurt. At the same time, when you know your young men that play for you, you know what you’re able to ask of them to do,” Ross said.
“There was a lot asked of Bryson and he carried that mantle well.”
The day after throwing 100-plus pitches in a start, Hirabayashi would be right back on the field throwing long toss.
Other players joked he had a rubber arm. He says it was never sore and credited the work he did in the offseason for helping him prepare for the huge workload this season.
Yet, for how good he was at baseball (he had several scholarship offers to various junior colleges), Hirabayashi is going to Utah State to play golf.
“My intentions were never golf, it was always baseball. I ended up playing really well in the state tournament and it went from there ... it just kind of fell in line, I guess,” he said.
Hirabayashi finished third in the 6A boys golf state tournament this past fall after shooting a 4-under-par 68 in the first round. He recently qualified for the upcoming Utah State Amateur as well.
He says he didn’t take golf seriously until he was in the ninth grade, only playing infrequently before that.
“It was twice a year, maybe. It was whenever we’d go down to St. George for baseball tournament was when I did it,” Hirabayashi said.
“I wasn’t even going to try out and then two weeks before, I was like, ‘Dad, I think I want to try out for golf,’” he said.
Hirabayashi estimates he shot 95 at tryouts. At the region tournament later that year, he shot in the high 70s.
He got some help from his dad, Bart, as well as his cousin, Brandon Kida, who played golf at the University of Utah from 2011-2015.
Hirabayashi said it was really fun to have his dad as an assistant coach on the baseball team.
“He’s very helpful. I like it because it’s not like he’s helping me more than others, he’s definitely helping the other kids, if anything, a little more than me,” Hirabayashi said.
In the past two years as a starter, Hirabayashi went 13-6, pitched 117 1/3 innings, struck out 177 batters, walked just 48, allowed 81 hits, allowed 38 earned runs for a 2.27 ERA and allowed opponents to bat just .183 against him.
Gaudy as they are, the numbers aren’t what he’ll most fondly remember.
“I think the thing that’s going to stand out most is how lucky I was to be on such a program with such great coaches and that I was able to grow up playing baseball with the same kids,” he said.