Provo senior Brian Rojas had put in a full day’s work in the first 4.5 innings of Thursday’s baseball game against Spanish Fork at Salem Hills High School.
His pitching had methodically taken the Don offense out of the game, surrendering just two hits and no runs while striking out seven before leaving the mound.
But the Bulldogs needed Rojas to come through one more time to be confident they would get the win.
He stepped up to the plate in the top of the seventh inning with Provo having just scored its first two runs of the game and the bases loaded with one out.
“We said we were only going to the seventh inning, so we had to do something,” Rojas said. “I felt like we were going to do something special. I had been 0-for in the game, so I had to do something for my team.”
He got ahead in the count, then got a pitch he really liked.
“It came in low and outside, so I was able to drive it to left-center,” Rojas said.
His blast went clear to the fence and he sprinted around the bases for a triple, driving in three big runs.
The Bulldog defense then held off Spanish Fork’s last rally in the bottom half of the inning to secure the 6-0 win over the Dons to start the Last Chance Tournament with a victory.
“It was fun to see these seniors come in and produce,” Provo head coach Lance Moore said. “Brian (Rojas), Walker (Moore), Jake (Christensen), Alex (Atkinson), Jojo (Nielsen), Feliks (Borlik), Lincoln (Williams), they all made big plays. It was a fun day. This is such a great team.”
He said the difference in the game came down to the basics of throwing strikes and making plays.
“Our strong suits are that we throw a lot of strikes and then play catch in the field,” Moore said. “Our success has been because of seeing more pitches and throwing more strikes than our opponents.”
The pitching for both teams was excellent to start the game as Spanish Fork hurler Mason Olson matched Rojas. He also only allowed two hits while striking out nine in his five innings of work.
“Defensively and on the mound it didn’t look like either side had lost a step,” Moore said. “It was a well-played game.”
Both teams had runners in scoring position in the first six innings but Spanish Fork stranded six baserunners while Provo stranded four with neither side getting anyone to cross the plate.
It wasn’t until the Bulldogs got a single and two walks to start the final inning that Provo was able to break through.
A wild pitch allowed the first Bulldog run to come in, then a bases-loaded walk drove in a second run. That set the stage for Rojas’s big hit, then he scored when Walker Moore hit a single.
Spanish Fork did load the bases with just one out in the bottom of the seventh but a strikeout and a groundout ended the game.
Rojas couldn’t keep the smile off his face as he talked about how good it was to play baseball again after not being able to play a normal season due to efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“It was amazing,” Rojas said. “It felt great. There is nothing better than getting out and playing baseball.”
Both Provo and Spanish Fork will continue the pool-play portion of the tournament by facing Springville today.
The Bulldogs will battle the Red Devils at 1:30 p.m. at Salem Hills, while the Dons will try to get back on the winning track when they play Springville at 5 p.m. at Maple Mountain.
Both teams are scheduled to play again on Saturday at Salem Hills in the final round of pool play, then move on to the bracket portion of the event next week.