South Jordan • Austin Florez watched from the dugout as the fruits of his crucial seventh-inning at-bat finally bore fruit. The shortstop had bobbled Landon Walbeck’s bouncer to the left side, and Aaron Marsh, who had pinch run for Florez, scurried home.
The reigning Class 5A state champion Bingham Miners streamed slowly from the dugout, Florez among them, to gather at home plate in a subdued celebration. A back-and-forth game finally had ended, with the Miners edging out a walk-off win over American Fork, 7-6, Wednesday afternoon.
"It’s a great feeling because you’d been working so hard all game to get one-up on the other team," Florez said. "Its great to see yourself capitalize on someone else’s mistake."
Florez was the key at-bat of the game-winning rally. Leading off against lanky Cavemen reliever Ryan Andrus, whose fastball was touching the high 80s, Florez laced a liner up the middle and reached after it deflected off Andrus’ glove.
"Its a close game, so I’m just thinking, ‘Get on base, so my team can get me over and get me in,’" Florez said. "Im looking for something just to drive. Nothing too big, just looking for something."
After a sacrifice bunt and a strikeout moved Florez’s pinch runner, Marsh, to third, Walbeck’s bobbled grounder ended the game — one that had pushed the Miners to the brink and, in Florez’s estimation, put them a step closer to being ready to defend their state title.
"These are the best," said Florez, who finished 2-for-3 and also had a key run-scoring double. "The ones where you can really grind to the last at-bat are the ones we live for here at Bingham."
The Miners led for much of the game after scoring three in the first, but the Cavemen chipped away, eventually tying it at 6-6 in the sixth on a Bingham error.
But when the Cavemen were unable to take the lead in the seventh, Florez knew it was the Miners’ time to strike the killing blow.
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