After falling behind 4-0 to Jordan in Friday’s 5A semifinal contest at Cate Field in West Jordan, the Timpanogos baseball team had gotten rolling in the bottom of the third inning.
Thanks to key, two-RBI hits by senior center fielder Tyson Heinz and senior second baseman Ethan Hixson, the Timberwolves had erased the deficit and gone up 5-4.
Then Mother Nature stole the show.
Lightning forced a two-hour weather delay and no one knew how it would affect Timpanogos’ momentum.
Timberwolf head coach Kim Nelson turned to senior pitcher Gabe Sweeten when play resumed — and Sweeten did his job almost perfectly.
Sweeten scattered four hits in four innings of work and didn’t give up a run as Timpanogos pulled away to defeat the Beetdiggers, 8-4, and secure a spot in Saturday’s 5A state championship.
“This feels,” Sweeten said. “I’ve played other sports where we haven’t even made it to state. It’s exciting to make it and be able to play in the state championship game.”
He explained that the Timberwolves felt prepared and hungry coming out of the weather delay.
“It was exciting,” Sweeten said. “I love pitching. I just go up there and throw and the team backs me up. I have a great team. I throw strikes and let them hit it to my teammates.”
Nelson said he wasn’t sure how Sweeten would do after such a long break.
“I don’t know how he could’ve pitched any better,” Nelson said. “You never know how things are going to go. I don’t remember sitting and waiting on a rain delay like this because most fields couldn’t have handled the rain. It was just different and we had to adjust. But it was still one team playing another. I’m proud of how we came out.”
The key sequence came right after the game got underway again in the top of the fourth inning.
Jordan came out and got a pair of singles to get the tying runner in scoring position with two out. Sweeten was able to get the next Beetdigger batter to pop up and Timpanogos preserved the lead.
Jordan only got two more guys on base the rest of the game — one of whom was picked off of second in the top of the sixth and the other was stranded in the top of the seventh.
The Timberwolf offense tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth and two more when junior first baseman Paxton Richards and senior outfielder Crew Erickson drove in runs in the bottom of the sixth to put the game away.
Hixson led the ways for Timpanogos at the plate as he went 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored. The Timberwolves also got good pitching from junior starting pitcher Ky Decker, who gave up four runs on four hits with a pair of strikeouts in his three innings on the mound.
It’s been an impressive run for Timpanogos, who finished second in Region 8 but now are one of the only two teams remaining in the 5A playoffs.
“This isn’t a group at the beginning of the year I would’ve of said was going to go to the state title game but they have exceeded expectations in a lot of ways,” Nelson said. “We had our ups and downs. It’s unbelievable to see how we saved our best for the last week of the year.”
The Timberwolves know they have their work cut out for them as they will take on unbeaten Cottonwood, needing to knock off the Colts twice to win the title.
“They have good pitching and all of it,” Nelson said. “But we’re not going to be just happy to be there. We’re going to make the best of it.”
Timpanogos is scheduled to face Cottonwood in the 5A championship Friday at 10 a.m. at UCCU Ballpark at UVU.
If the Timberwolves beat the Colts in the first game, the two teams would then play again at the same location Saturday at 10 a.m. Go to UHSAA.org for complete details and weather updates.