Syracuse • Spencer Johnson had a little more left to give when he was called off the mound in the sixth inning Wednesday. The Syracuse senior only had allowed one hit.
But he wasn't sweating his substitute, Jordan Cobabe. Along with fellow pitcher Jason Jourdan, the Syracuse stars have been friends on the diamond since the third grade. Johnson was confident the slim lead the Titans had over defending state champion American Fork would hold.
"I felt like I could've kept going, but I knew Jordan had it," Johnson said, smiling after Syracuse's 2-0 win over the Cavemen. "It feels amazing that our staff could do that against a team like them."
American Fork's lineup was no match for Johnson's and Cobabe's arms. The duo combined for a shutout one-hitter in a Class 5A baseball state quarterfinal. With six hits themselves, the Titans were able to squeak by the baseball powerhouse with timely runs.
Despite boasting a fastball that can hit the 90s, Johnson cooled the Cavemen's bats with control over raw power. He said he tried to attack the low zone, and it was effective: Although he walked four batters in his start, he was able to get most out on fly balls and grounders.
Syracuse coach Jeff Bearnson decided to switch hurlers in the sixth after Johnson gave up his first hit and walked another batter. Cobabe, a lefty, immediately was thrust into a pressure-packed situation. An error moved up the runners, and the team elected to load the bases rather than let American Fork star Riley Ottesen take a swing.
A ground ball led to a force out at the plate, and Cobabe fanned the next batter for the final out of the inning. The seventh was a three-up, three-down affair, and the Titans celebrated arguably the program's biggest win.
"That might be the best coaching staff and the best team in the state over there," Bearnson said afterward, gesturing to the Cavemen dugout. "But we've been in a lot of one-run games all year, and we've lost them, too. We've learned to take it inning by inning, to not get too choked up by the pressure."
Syracuse's bats didn't fare particularly well against American Fork starter Shawn Hardman, but the Titans found ways to slip a few runs past the Cavemen.
Jayden Bearnson gave his team the lead with a long sacrifice fly to center in the third inning. Some insurance came in the bottom of the sixth when Brandon Hammond hit an opening double, and the speed-up runner scored on a fielding error in the next at-bat.
American Fork, which has reached the past two 5A state title games and won last year, was stung by the loss. But coach Jared Ingersol said he already was looking to next week's one-loss round.
"We're going to see who wants it more, who is willing to play harder, who is willing to listen," he said. "We're going to see who will play like it's their last game."
Winners bracket at Utah Valley University
4:30 p.m. • Bingham vs. Syracuse
7 p.m. • Riverton vs. Layton
Losers bracket at UVU
11 a.m. • Pleasant Grove vs. Alta
1:30 p.m. • Davis vs. Cottonwood
4:30 p.m. • Copper Hills vs. Taylorsville
7 p.m. • American Fork vs. Jordan