When two good baseball teams battle on the diamond, often victory or defeat comes down to the little things like coming up with key catches or getting a big hit with runners in scoring position.
Timpanogos found itself locked in just such a struggle with powerful Cottonwood in Monday’s 5A state championship-bracket game at Gates Field in Kearns.
The Timberwolves played an excellent game overall – but the Colts proved to be a little bit better.
Cottonwood took the lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning and Timpanogos never made up the ground, eventually falling to the Colts, 4-1.
“They 10-runned us a month-and-a-half ago, but today we battled like we can battle,” Timberwolf head coach Kim Nelson said. “It was a good performance. It just could’ve been better.”
The Timpanogos batters had a tough time against Cottonwood ace pitcher Porter Hodge, who scattered four hits in a complete-game performance. Hodge ended up with eight strikeouts to just three walks.
“That was a Division-I level arm we were facing, just like we knew it would be,” Nelson said. “It wasn’t a surprise. He was just better than we were. We got a few guys on but we needed to create something more to get the momentum. Getting one more hit in two or three of the innings might have turned the tide but it didn’t quite happen.”
The challenge got significantly tougher when the Colts plated two runs in the bottom of the first inning. That meant the T’Wolves knew they had to rally.
“Baseball is such a momentum game,” Nelson said. “If you see a guy hit a line drive, it often leads to another. Good plays feed off each other.”
Timpanogos second baseman Ethan Hixson led the way offensively, going 2-for-3 and driving in the only Timberwolf run with a single in the top of the sixth. Timpanogos pitcher Carter Wilde was solid against the potent Cottonwood lineup, giving up just seven hits.
The defeat drops the Timberwolves into the 5A elimination bracket and Nelson said he told his team that there is no time to bemoan the defeat.
“We are playing a team tomorrow that has momentum while we are coming off a downer today,” Nelson said. “It comes down to how quick we can get the mindset that we want to keep playing. If we wait for the other team to help us, it won’t happen. We have to make it ourselves.”
He said he has reason to be optimistic that his guys will be ready to go for their next game.
“We’ve been pretty good at bouncing back after tough losses this season,” Nelson said. “We’ve done some good things in the games after.”
Timpanogos will take on Corner Canyon at Gates Field in Kearns at 1:30 p.m. in Kearns. The winner is slated to play again at 7 p.m.
Jordan 11, Skyridge 1 (6)
The Falcons appeared to be in position to challenge the Beetdiggers for a dramatic final inning when Jordan came up to bat in the bottom of the sixth.
But when the Beetdiggers ramped up the pressure by putting runners on base and making solid contact, Skyridge struggled to make the key plays.
Jordan turned a close game into a blowout by scoring nine runs in the inning, ending the contest due to the 10-run rule.
“Our footwork fielding bunts was not good, our positioning wasn’t good, we made mental errors,” Falcon head coach Ryan Roberts said. “The ultimate story of the game was that we gave them too many freebies, too many errors and walks.”
He said that while the final inning was where the pressure was most evident, he saw it earlier in the game when his guys were at the plate.
“We put pressure on ourselves and our at-bats weren’t good enough,” Roberts said. “We got a run and then we sat back and didn’t do enough.”
Skyridge scored in the top of the third inning to go up 1-0 but the Beetdiggers needed just one swing of the bat — a two-run homer by catcher Trevor Zupon — to flip the script.
Jordan then refused to let the Falcons get back in the game, eventually pulling away.
Skyridge now faces the same question Timpanogos does: How will they respond to losing a game at state?
“Now we will see what the guys are made of,” Roberts said. “We will come back tomorrow and make it happen. I told the guys that the most important game is the first game tomorrow and it’s important for us to get something going in the first and second innings.”
The Falcons will face Region 8 foe Maple Mountain in the 5A elimination game scheduled to be played at 4:30 p.m. at Gates Field in Kearns.
Maple Mountain 6, Farmington 4
In the second 5A elimination game at Gates Field in Kearns on Monday, the Golden Eagles found themselves in a dogfight against Farmington.
Maple Mountain had a slim, one-run lead heading into the bottom of the sixth inning but allowed the Phoenix to tie things up, in part due to a throwing error on a pickoff attempt and then a playable grounder to second that ended up getting to the outfield.
But the Golden Eagles didn’t let that phase them. In the top of the seventh, second baseman Ethan Bergstrom started things off with a single and then came home when shortstop Tyler Nelson drilled a triple off the wall in center field.
Nelson then came home on a single by left fielder Hunter Shaw, giving Maple Mountain a two-run lead heading the bottom half of the inning.
The Golden Eagle defense took care of business, keeping their season alive. Nelson led the way, going 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored.
“It was a pretty good day,” Maple Mountain head coach Gary Miner said. “Some guys weren’t at their best today but others were. We made some clutch defensive plays but we gave them one or two. We battle back from being down and didn’t panic.”
The Golden Eagles will look to continue their run through the 5A elimination bracket at Gates Field in Kearns on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. when they face the team that loses the Skyridge-Jordan game.
“We’re not going to break our routine,” Miner said. “We’ll hit and be ready to go.”