ST. GEORGE, Utah (BVM) – On March 12, the NCAA canceled remaining winter and spring championships. It was a sign of the mass cancelation of sports across all levels that would ensue.
The news broke just hours before Cooper Vest was slated to take the mound against Spanish Fork.
“I was getting the feeling that ‘Hey, this might be it as my final start on the mound at Dixie High School on my high school field,’” Vest said. “I just knew that I wanted to leave every last ounce that I had in my body out on that mound that night.
“And that’s exactly what I did; it was definitely a different zone than any other start I’ve had.”
In what was his final prep performance on the mound, Vest recorded 20 strikeouts in a 2-0 win. It was a sparkling finale, although premature, to an illustrious career for the senior.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound left-handed pitcher and outfielder led the Flyers to three straight Class 4A state championship finals in his career, anchoring title teams in 2017 and 2018. The two-time all-state selection appeared poised to repeat the feat in 2020, compiling a 2-0 record and allowing just one hit in 11 innings during Dixie’s 6-1 start this spring before the season was canceled.
Vest was named the Gatorade Utah Baseball Player of the Year in May, the first-ever chosen from Dixie. The senior’s dominance, versatility and 20-strikeout gem of an outing has been recognized both at the national level and by opposing head coaches.
“Although he plays 4A, Cooper Vest has always put up unbelievable numbers and I would rate his competition in St. George right with 6A,” Jeremy Berg, head coach at Lone Peak High School, said in Gatorade’s press release. “He had a 20-strikeout game this spring and that was one of the most respected teams in Utah (Spanish Fork). His numbers at the plate last season were really good and his pitching was borderline ridiculous.”
While Berg and others believe the southpaw’s stuff on the mound is ridiculous, Vest’s ability at the plate is a close rival. After all, he’s rated as Utah’s No. 1 prospect among outfielders in the Class of 2020 and No. 197 in the nation despite being lauded for his arm.
Vest batted .479 as a junior with an OPS of 1.425 and last summer, he led his Utah Marshalls club team to Pathway Games and Gates World Series titles while batting .367 with 12 doubles, two home runs and 31 RBIs.
The duality and versatility in effectiveness is something Vest believes sets him apart from other top prospects.
“Being able to hit as well as pitch at a high level is something I take a lot of pride in, especially because baseball is a sport you need a lot of repetition in,” Vest said. “Versatility is one of my strong suits, being a left-handed position player and a pitcher. Just being able to play first base, the outfield and pitch on the mound left-handed I think is something that I’ll be able to take and give to them at BYU this fall.”
The decision to stay home in Utah and play for the Cougars in Provo was one that was made even before Vest hit a walk-off grand slam as a freshman to win the first of two state championships while playing at Dixie.
— Matthew L Glade (@matthewLksl) May 21, 2017
Vest said he has known Brigham Young University head coach Mark Littlewood and assistant coaches Trent Pratt and Brent Harring for as long as he can remember. From as young as 5 years old, Vest went to Dixie State summer baseball camps — where Littlewood coached for 16 years prior to BYU — right in St. George. Vest said those camps are his favorite thing of all-time, and it helped make for an easy decision when he committed to the Cougars following his freshman year.
“That’s the coaching staff that I want to play for and that I’ve wanted to play for my entire life,” Vest said. “Why wouldn’t I want to play for that coaching staff that I’ve been so comfortable with for 10 years?
“And it’s just the life I want to live up there in Provo; it’s just a very homey vibe. Their values and standards are right in line with mine.”
Vest is one of seven signees who will join BYU for the 2021 season, and the No. 5-ranked overall player in Utah is expected to contribute right away for Littlewood’s club.
“Coop committed to us while he was playing on the U14 USA Baseball team,” Littlewood said when BYU announced its seven signings in November. “He’s a proven gamer and a true competitor. I expect him to make an immediate impact for us as a position player and a pitcher.”
Playing for a coaching staff that understands and believes in him, Vest will be in a perfect position to recreate and build on his prep success. The versatile lefty said every kid dreams of playing professional baseball, and while he is no different, Vest knows there’s more than one path to get there.
Vest’s path will take him to BYU, and he’ll enjoy the process no matter the outcome.
“The feeling you have when you find the barrel and square up on a ball right back up the middle, or hit it in the gap or make a strikeout to end the inning, there’s no other feeling like it,” Vest said. “Playing professional baseball has definitely been my goal ever since I can remember so I’m going to take the DI college baseball route, go play, have a good career at BYU and see what happens.”