Orem • Bending each side of his blue Bingham baseball cap, Joey Sato took a very deep breath and instructed his Miners, celebrating the school’s 21st state championship, to move the hooting and hollering off the mound.
It was a long, wild and wacky game that delivered Bingham the Class 5A baseball state championship, a back-and-forth, error-filled extravaganza that the Miners eventually won 6-5 over a gritty group of Layton Lancers.
"They knew the task," Sato said. "I wanted them to have good, quality at-bats and just pick away one at a time."
Bingham, undefeated throughout the 5A tournament, had to pick away because the Lancers answered the Miners’ 3-0 lead with five runs, highlighted by a three-run shot by Quentin Marcelin in the top of the fifth inning and a two-run double in the top of the sixth by Caleb Harrop.
The Miners suddenly were faced with the prospect of playing a second game, six outs away from losing grip of a game they had well in hand thanks to sound defense and an error-filled afternoon by the Layton defense.
"Emotions will take a lot of you," said Jacob Druce, Bingham’s senior catcher.
So the Miners didn’t get emotional.
Instead, they rallied.
Senior outfielder T.J. Bowcutt made the rounds in the bottom of the sixth when he reached on an error by the third baseman. He made it to second on a passed ball, then touched third on a sacrifice to right. He cut the Layton deficit to 5-4 when a wild pitch squirted away from Layton catcher Moises Perea.
Brennon Lund walked. Braxton McKee singled.
It was Druce’s turn. It was, as Sato so often calls, a situation of "mental imagery," Druce explained.
"Over, over and over again, I put myself in that situation," he said. "I was meant to be there."
He smashed a single to left field to bring in Lund and tie the game.
A double-steal attempt worked out when the throw to second base rolled into center field and Lund wheeled home to give the Miners a 6-5 lead. Chase Tavonatti inherited the top of the seventh, three outs to get Bingham celebrating on the infield at Brent Brown Ballpark. The senior right-hander was ready to go in Thursday’s semifinals, but Sato elected to save his arm.
When Lund slid across home plate, Tavonatti looked at Sato and asked if he should sprint to the bullpen. He did, and he finished it.
"The only thing I could think of was my team," he said.
Tavonatti induced two pop-outs and a grounder to first, a tag by Coleman Stout to begin the bedlam. Sato eventually deferred all the work to his players and summed up his season with one phrase: "Tough kids, huh?"
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