Spanish Fork and Skyridge were greeted on Tuesday with the typical spring baseball weather in Utah: Sunny and warm one inning, raining and cold the next.
The game turned out to be a classic, too.
Blair Nielsen’s bloop single with two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh brought home the winning run as the Dons rallied for a 3-2 victory in a contest between two teams expected to contend in their respective classifications.
“That lefty (Nick Holland) was doing a good job,” Spanish Fork coach Casey Nelson said. “He was crafty and competed his butt off. I felt like our guys were competing and we had couple chances where we didn’t score early. Kudos to that lefty for making pitches and kudos to our guys, too. Late in the game they stepped up, gave us quality at-bats and gave us a chance to win.”
Skyridge took a 1-0 lead in the first. Chase Youngberg and Garrett Bower opened the game with a pair of singles and Youngberg scored on a ground out. The Falcons pushed across another run in the third as Youngberg single, stole his way to third and came home on a throwing error for a 2-0 advantage.
Holland struck out eight batters in five innings of work, allowing only one hit. He ran into control problems in the fifth when the rain started to come down harder. Will Dart singled and eventually came home on a wild pitch to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Boston Bradford smacked a one-out double in the bottom of the seventh to get things going for Spanish Fork. Brody Duvall and Zac Dart walked to load the bases and Easton Romero was hit by Skyridge reliever McKade Sampson, forcing Bradford in to tie the game at 2-all.
Skyridge’s Matt Earl entered the game and induced a pop-up from Hunter Rasmussen for the second out of the inning.
Nielsen stepped up and worked a full count before looping a ball into shallow right field that scored Duvall from third with the winning run.
“Obviously you want to go up there and take a hack,” Nielsen said. “You want to hit a bomb. I looked down to third base at Coach Hall and he told me to keep my chin on the ball. I realized, OK, maybe I don’t need to swing as hard as I possibly can. He threw me one up and in that almost hit me. It was a full count so I knew a fastball was coming. When I got to first I remember my teammates running at me. I threw my helmet up in the air and celebrated with them. That was cool.”
Nelson credited Bridger Hall, who relieved starter Aaron Sessions in the fourth and earned the win with six strikeouts.
“The most important thing was Bridger Hall going four shutout innings of relief for us,” Nelson said. “That kept us in the game. And Blair, he was kind of mad because he didn’t hit that last ball very hard, but that doesn’t matter. It was a base knock. There was pressure on both guys. Blair made what we call a ‘2K fight’ and he got the ball in play.”
Skyridge finished with five hits and Spanish Fork just three.
Nelson said his team was really grateful to be playing baseball this spring after the pandemic ended the 2020 season after just a few games.
“These guys are just energized,” he said. “They really want to be out here. I think having it taken away from them last year is the cause of their energy. They just love playing baseball right now. I’m re-energized as a coach. You don’t realize how much you miss it until it’s gone.”
Spanish Fork (4-1) will be at Lehi on Thursday. Skyridge (0-1) will travel to Salt Lake City to take on Judge Memorial.