As is typical in elimination bracket games, American Fork had to win its matchup with Cyprus twice.
The Cavemen lost most of an early 6-0 lead but scored seven runs in the fifth to take control again, finishing off the Pirates 15-5 on Friday in the 6A baseball tournament at UVU’s UCCU Ballpark.
American Fork (18-9) played without head coach Jarod Ingersoll, who had to sit out the game after being ejected from his team’s 3-2 loss at Fremont on Tuesday. Assistant coach Jay Holmstead took over in his place.
“I think the young men played well,” Holmstead said. “They were disappointed in themselves at Fremont and they came with a little different focus today. We didn’t have anything to lose and I think they did a good job.”
The Cavemen had no trouble scoring, pounding out 13 hits. Connor Bulkley and Jack Walker both had three hits and three RBI. AF plated runs twice on bunt singles and put runners in motion every inning.
The Cavemen led 6-0 after three innings but Cyprus rallied for four runs in the fourth to cut the deficit to 6-4. The AF lead was 7-4 when Holmstead opted for Nate Rhineer in relief of Shaefer Schoonover. Rhineer — who pitched a five inning two-hitter against Hillcrest on Monday — had control problems, walking two and hitting a batter as well. The Pirates trimmed the AF lead to 7-5 when Rhineer walked Mason Miller with the bases loaded with nobody out.
But Rhineer got his curveball working again and struck out three consecutive batters to end the Cyprus threat.
“Nate is a great pitcher,” Holmstead said. “He throws really hard but gets really excited, just like the rest of us. I think he finally kind of got back to his processes and just pitched. He settled in and got himself out of a jam there.
“Schoonover threw really well. He threw a lot of ground balls. We’re just trying to go by committee and keep everybody’s pitch count down. If we’re going to have a chance to come through the losers bracket, we have to have everybody.”
The Cavemen sent 11 hitters to the plate in the fifth and scored seven runs, including a-two run double from Bulkley and RBI singles by Walker and Peyton Wilson, for a 14-5 lead.
In the bottom of the sixth, Bulkley opened with a single and Walker followed with an RBI triple to the left-center gap to end the game via the 10-run rule.
“It’s good to get the momentum and have that feeling of being on top,” Bulkley said. “Right now, we’re just looking for fastballs and attack, attack, attack. We’re just trying to find a pitch to hit.”
American Fork advances to play another elimination game on Monday against Herriman, which topped Kearns 9-3.