4A baseball: Slam lifts Salem Hills into title game
Orem • Salem Hills coach Scott Haney already had his ace.
Colton Hill has been the Skyhawks' No. 1 pitcher for the past three seasons. But Haney still was looking for a player to step up and win that second spot entering this season.
That man was on the bump and in a jam Thursday evening with Salem Hills looking for a win to put the school in the Class 4A baseball state title game.
Garret McEwan had given up a leadoff triple to Maple Mountain's Jonah Flinders then watched as Flinders scored and the Golden Eagles loaded the bases in the first inning.
McEwan thought back to the Little League advice from his father to just breathe deep. He reared back, and as he's done all year long for the Skyhawks, he got the job done.
"He came out and pitched his heart out," Haney said.
McEwan pitched six innings in a 7-2 win over Maple Mountain at Utah Valley University. His 10th win of the year kept his team undefeated in the tournament and secured a place in Friday's state championship.
"We're in the driver's seat now," McEwan said. "We decide our own fate."
Hill stepped to the plate with the game knotted at 1-1 in the second inning. He had taken Maple Mountain pitcher MaKay Nelson deep to center in the first, and he was looking for a fastball he could turn on with the bases loaded.
"I just thought if I get that fastball again, I need to be quicker, turn on it," he said. "The second at-bat, he threw me a curveball first, and then I just knew the fastball was coming."
Hill got every bit of the pitch, lifting it over the right-field wall for a grand slam.
"I saw Colton swinging, and I knew it was getting out," McEwan said. "I jumped high I think I hit my head on the dugout."
Maple Mountain's K.J. Hall appeared to answer back with a three-run shot of his own in the bottom of the third inning. But in a delayed call, the blast down the left field line was ruled foul. Hall then popped out to left to end the inning, leaving two stranded.
Maple Mountain cut the deficit when first baseman Arik Mack, who went 2 for 3 with a walk, drove in his second run of the game.
But the Skyhawks, the state's leader in extra-base hits, answered back. Salem Hills put together a pair of two-out singles in the top of the sixth inning. Then shortstop Taylor Snyder made the Golden Eagles pay with a double to the wall that drove in two.
"The best thing this team does is when the other team scores, we come back and score," Haney said. "They just have a knack for deflating the other team."
Salem Hills, meanwhile, is sky high and just one win away from winning it all.
"It's crazy. This is the stuff you work for when you're 11, 12 years old," Hill said. "To be one win away is surreal."
Class 4A state tournament
P Friday at Utah Valley University
1:30 p.m. • Salem Hills vs. Maple Mountain
* if Salem Hills loses the 1:30 p.m. game, a winner-take-all title game would follow at 8 p.m. if the Class 5A tournament also needs a winner-take-all game or 20 minutes after the conclusion of the 1:30 game if 5A does not need a second game.
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