Prep baseball: American Fork rallies for 5A championship (with video)
Kearns • American Fork hadn't led all day.
In the bottom of the sixth with two runners on and two outs in a tie game, here was the chance maybe the final chance for the Cavemen to finally go ahead.
Junior Riley Otteson stepped to the plate, quickly taking two strikes.
"I was trying to get contact, and he made me look foolish, throwing 0-2," Otteson said. "Then he threw something at least close to the plate, and I was able to get my hands around on it."
The shot landed softly in the right field grass. Base hit. As he crossed home for what would be the winning run, Zac Haws remembered thinking one thing: "Thank you."
American Fork finally got its Class 5A baseball title, surging in the sixth inning of an if-necessary game for a 5-4 victory over Taylorsville. How long the Cavemen have been waiting depends on who you ask.
They had to wait through two games and nearly 13 innings of playing from behind Friday afternoon at Kearns High School. They had to wait nearly a year to the day since Bingham beat them last season in the title game. They had waited since 1985 since their last championship.
So when American Fork took the field after taking its first lead of the day, the team protected it. Ground out for the first out, strikeout for the second. Every moment bringing the Cavemen closer.
Finally, Adam Fullmer hit a fly ball to center, and it dropped into the steady mitt of B.J. Eldredge. The Cavemen leapt into a dogpile on Otteson, who had delivered the winning hit and the victory on the mound.
"We knew we could get it done," Haws said. "There was that feeling in the dugout that just no one can stop us."
The Warriors were poised to be the giant killers from the start of the day's first contest. They had scored two runs in the first inning of the morning game and led throughout, earning a 6-2 win over starter Danny Beddes. A pattern developed: Dallas Carroll and Kyle Hoffman would get on base, and Larenz Stansfield would hit them home.
Taylorsville again took control, scoring four runs in the first two innings of the forced second game. The Cavemen gained some momentum in the second, as Eldredge batted in Jake Miles and Cade Hill to cut the lead to 4-2, but couldn't build on it until the sixth.
Otteson shut the Warriors' lineup down from the third inning on, and finally the opportunity came. With no outs, Miles and Hill got on base on a walk and a bunt single, respectively. Haws hit in Miles, then Hill scored on a ground out. Mo Flinders walked to set the stage for Otteson's hit.
Coach Jarod Ingersol couldn't imagine anyone else saving the season.
"He can do it with his glove, with his speed, with his hitting," Ingersol said. "He's a great player."
Ingersol acknowledged his team was a bit shaken by the first-game loss. But although the Cavemen had put themselves in a hole, he was proud they got themselves out as well.
"I was trying hard not to panic I knew that if I clammed up, they would clam up," Ingersol said. "Somehow they just found a way."
The game was a startling cap for Taylorsville, which had played the Cinderella role since the start of the week. The Warriors won six games in five days, beating the final four winner's bracket teams of Alta, Bingham, Jordan and American Fork at least once.
Suddenly, their story had ended. But coach Jake Brown offered some perspective for his tearful players.
"This is the proudest I've ever been of anything in my whole life," Brown said. "We knew we were good, it was about letting it happen. And this week we finally let it happen."
Storylines Otteson saves the day
R American Fork leads for less than an inning for the day but wins its first title since 1985.
• Riley Otteson hits a go-ahead single in the sixth inning of Game 2.
• Otteson also gets the win on the mound, striking out four.