5A baseball: Layton knocks off Copper Hills in the 8th
Kearns • It was time for a change.
Caleb Harrop threw 136 pitches to carry Layton seven innings and two outs. But the bases were loaded, Harrop had lost some snap on his delivery. A two-run lead doesn't protect itself.
Coach Robert Ferneau made a gutsy call to pull his ace mid-at-bat to put in Pete Nielsen. Two pitches later, a grounder to second ended a tense playoff contest with a 8-6 Lancers victory over Copper Hills in the 5A baseball tournament.
The win sends Layton to the winner's bracket final, where they'll vie to reach their second state championship game in as many years. They almost stumbled on Tuesday afternoon, but a tying run in the 7th inning and a two-run 8th earned them the right to advance to Thursday's slate.
"We're the type of team that we don't hit the panic button," said Harrop, who notched the win in an almost-complete game effort. "We've been in those type of situations before. You come up big when you need to, and that's what happened today."
The Lancers are painfully aware of how close they came to the big win last year, falling in the 5A final to Bingham. But experience from last year's run worked to their advantage against the Grizzlies, helping them answer Copper Hills' punches.
The biggest moments came in the final two innings, as Brady Jewell knocked home an RBI single to tie the game and force extra innings. Eddie Aguilar made the most of the spare frame, belting a two-run single that gave the Layton the lead for good, as things turned out.
"Clutch hit," Ferneau said. "He came up big."
The runs allowed by Layton in the last four innings? Zero.
The Lancers had to recover from some early slip-ups, including a fourth inning with four errors. Harrop had five walks to go with his five strikeouts, and got taken yard once by Copper Hill's Jake Boyd to lose Layton's early lead.
But the defense did regroup, stranding seven baserunners over the final four innings.
"I think experience is a big part," Ferneau said. "The kids never got down. We were down two and they still believed."
Layton started off as the hot squad, earning three runs in the first inning on five straight base hits. Copper Hills gained two back in the bottom of the inning, as Harrop struggled to settle down on the mound with three walks and hitting another batter.
In all, the Lancers finished with 11 hits, including a solo home run by Jewell in the fifth.
Layton will face the winner of Lone Peak-Jordan at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at UVU. Copper Hills drops to the one-loss bracket to face Pleasant Grove on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. at Gates Field in Kearns.
Winners' bracket semifinals
• Layton 8, Copper Hills 6 (8 innings)
• Lone Peak vs. Jordan, late
At Utah Valley University
Winners' bracket final
• Layton vs. Lone Peak/Jordan winner, 4:30 p.m.
Losers' bracket final
• Teams TBA, 7 p.m.
At Utah Valley University
• Teams TBA, 1:30 p.m.
Storylines • Layton 8, Copper Hills 6 (8 inn.)
R Eddie Aguilar hits the game-winning single in extra innings.
• Caleb Harrop notches the win while throwing 136 pitches.
• Layton's Brady Jewell and Copper Hills' Jake Boyd each homer.