3A baseball: Dramatic comeback propels Desert Hills into title game
Orem • Heart and guts. Grit and grind. Dirty jerseys and picking up teammates and the unquestionable belief they'll end up celebrating when that final out is recorded.
That is Desert Hills Thunder, and that is the team playing for the Class 3A state championship after a raucous 5-4 come-from-behind victory over Region 9 rival Snow Canyon Friday evening at Brent Brown Ballpark at Utah Valley University.
They fell behind 4-0 in the fourth inning and the breaks were going against them. Sophomore shortstop Braiden Irvin bobbled a couple of balls in the field. Left fielder Zac Ivie overran a ball. Pitcher Kaleb Caplin gave up an RBI triple.
"We kept scrapping," said Desert Hills coach Jerry Beck.
When it was all said and done, it was the guys in black sprinting around the damp infield in Orem hollering over a third victory over the Warriors in six weeks.
They got to Brogan Secrist. They got to Clint Gates. Then they got to Riley Gates.
Riley Gates, a BYU commit ace, came in the top of the seventh in relief, but couldn't keep Bryce Gibson's infield single from scoring the tying run, 4-4. In the top of the eighth, Ty Rutledge reached when Chandler Day couldn't get the swipe on Rutledge after Jacob Lindsey's throw from second went wide.
Rutledge advanced to second once catcher Carson Clement grounded out.
It was Irvin's time to give the five Desert Hills seniors a shot to play in Saturday's championship game. His sharp grounder to short was knocked down, but Rutledge, already on the move, wheeled home and slid under the tag. Safe.
"I just had to put the ball in play," Irvin said. "I've been struggling, and I just had to do it for the team nobody else."
He also was tasked with ending the game on a ground ball in the bottom of the eighth inning as Brenden Truman scooted down the first line and Irvin made sure there wouldn't be any say.
His throw was thunderous and the umpire punched the chilly air for the final out.
Heart and guts. Grit and grind.
"That's exactly what we are and that's exactly what we do," Irvin said.
Caplin pitched a complete game, and despite falling into a 4-0 hole early, he righted the ship and maneuvered around the potent Snow Canyon lineup for the next four innings.
"Last year, we had a bunch of bad breaks," he said, a smile tattooed across his face, "so we're used to having bad breaks."
On Friday, the Thunder overcame mistakes and aces, and showed the mettle of a team that believes.
And Beck said not to close the book on the Region 9 rivalry for this season just yet.
"They'll be back," he said. "Wouldn't surprise me seeing them win that 9 o'clock game [Saturday]."
Storylines Desert Hills 5, Snow Canyon 4
O The Thunders' Bryce Gibson scores the tying run in the top of the seventh inning.
• Desert Hills wins in eight innings to advance to the championship game.
9 a.m. • Snow Canyonvs. Spanish Fork
11 a.m. • Desert Hills vs. losers-bracket winner*
*If Snow Canyon loses the 11 a.m. game, a winner-take-all title game would follow 20 minutes after the conclusion of the 11 a.m. game