Kearns • The fans were buzzing, on their feet at Gates Field, waiting for Riley Gates to deliver his 138th pitch.
The Snow Canyon starter grunted as he hurled the ball toward Lincoln Rivera, who swung and missed. Strikeout — a clean finish to the Warriors’ 7-3 win over Spanish Fork in the Class 3A semifinals. Gates burned through the Dons’ lineup for most of the night, and his offense broke a tense deadlock in the sixth for a victory that sends Snow Canyon to the championship game on Saturday.
Coming off his complete-game marathon, Gates’ mind wasn’t on getting a good night’s rest before the big day.
“I can’t even wait,” he said. “I’m ready to go now.”
The Warriors didn’t hold their cards against the team that beat twice them in last year’s 4A championship. The junior ace Gates was hot, striking out nine in the game and allowing only four hits.
Offense was much more difficult to come by, but by the sixth, Snow Canyon was finding hits against Spanish Fork junior Brady Corless. With two outs, Chandler Day loaded up the bases. Brogan Secrist stepped to the plate, and Corless pitched to a full count.
With Snow Canyon faithful hollering, Corless threw ball four, walking in what would be the winning run. From there, the Dons faltered.
Senior Austin Ovard followed up the run with a two-RBI single. Secrist then managed to score on a pass ball. Corless notched a final strikeout to escape the fatal inning, but the damage had been done: four runs.
“[Secrist’s walk] kind of took the pressure off,” Ovard said. “I knew if I grounded out, or flew out, we’d still have that run.
“I didn’t want to just give up on it, though,” he added.
The rally was an uncharacteristic cap to what had been a dramatic game of inches. The Warriors took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on a two-out single by K.J. Harrison.
The Dons responded in the third, as Hayden Nielsen scored a run after getting on base on a dropped third strike. Kayden Porter ran home on a single by Jake Meservey, but missed the tying run after the umpire ruled he had missed third base.
The Dons took the lead an inning later, as Nielsen knocked in two runs on a single. Chandler Day tied up the game at three apiece in the fifth, scoring on a single by Michael Jensen.
On the day, Snow Canyon got 11 hits off Corless, who took only his second loss of the year. It was Spanish Fork’s first defeat to a 3A opponent this year.
The Dons drop down into the one-loss bracket and will play Juan Diego on Saturday at 9 a.m. for the right to face the Warriors and try to win their fourth straight state title — they successfully completed that odyssey last season against Snow Canyon.
But for now, Snow Canyon is in solid position to win its first state championship since 2007. And coach Reed Secrist didn’t dismiss the possibility that Gates — worn down arm and all — might get a second shot at Spanish Fork.
“I love Riley Gates, and I love when he’s on the mound,” Secrist said. “He’s a competitor, and he wants the ball. Hopefully he wakes up and his arm feels good, and we can bring him in at the end. We’re not going to play for second place.”
Juan Diego 7, Canyon View 2 • Kade Wagner had a solid start for the Soaring Eagle, holding the Falcons to six hits.
Delta 7, Carbon 2 • The Rabbits hopped out to an early lead, and Daxton Zubeck secured the win.
Juan Diego 13, Delta 7 • Kahi Kaahaaha homered in what looked to be a Soaring Eagle rout, but Delta got some late runs to make it a closer finish.
Class 3A baseball schedule
Saturday, Kearns H.S.
Consolation bracket semifinal • Juan Diego vs. Spanish Fork, 9 a.m.
Championship • Snow Canyon vs. consolation bracket semifinal winner, 11:30 a.m.