Orem • The most important walk of Jackson Hill’s baseball career took him only a few feet from home plate. After a 3-2 pitch sailed high with the bases loaded, the Pleasant Grove outfielder dropped his bat, started toward first base and jumped into the air in celebration, knowing his work was finished.
Brock Watkins trotted home with the winning run in the ninth inning of the Vikings' 5-4 defeat of Lone Peak for the Class 6A state championship Friday night at Utah Valley University, after having forced extra innings with a solo home run in the seventh.
The sequence that started with Watkins' single included a walk, a hit batsman and another walk, creating a rather anticlimactic ending to a tense, well-played game between the two Region 4 rivals from northern Utah County. Regardless of how it happened, the Vikings will enjoy the school's fifth state title. “This team has been a group of grinders,” said PG coach Darrin Henry.
• Jackson Hill draws a bases-loaded walk in bottom of the ninth inning, giving Pleasant Grove a 5-4 win over Lone Peak for the Class 6A state baseball title.
• Brock Watkins scores the winning run, 32 years after his father, Burke, and Pleasant Grove coach Darrin Henry played for the school’s first championship team.
• Creed Trane earns the victory with 4.2 innings of two-hit, scoreless relief.
The Vikings were rewarded in the end, as they avoided having to return Saturday morning for a true championship game in the double-elimination tournament. Lone Peak had completed a trip through the one-loss bracket with an 8-3 victory over Syracuse in an elimination game that was suspended Thursday and delayed twice by rain Friday. The Knights almost extended their season for another day, but Creed Trane's relief pitching and Watkins' clutch hitting made the difference for Pleasant Grove on an evening when the skies finally cleared and an often-interrupted tournament finished on schedule.
Lone Peak led 4-3 in the fifth and loaded the bases, only to have Trane enter the game and get out of the inning with a double play. That was one of several good plays made by Watkins at shortstop. Watkins then led off the bottom of the seventh with a game-tying home run off left-hander Noah Bean, who had pitched wonderfully.
“I knew he'd do it,” Hill said of Watkins, a BYU signee. “He's the most clutch person I know.”
“He's the best player in the state,” Henry said. “Everybody knows it. He may not get every award, but he's the best player in the state.”
Bean’s pitching had kept Lone Peak in position to win, while second baseman Chase Comer’s homer tied the game and his nice defensive play later helped the Knights maintain their lead. “It seemed like we hit so many balls hard at 'em,” Henry said.
He told his team, “Keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing. A break's going to happen.”
Patience at the plate became the Vikings' winning formula. Watkins' fourth hit of the game, a single through the right side, started the PG ninth against Lone Peak reliever Cade Walker. “I knew the guys behind me would get it done,” Watkins said.
They moved him around the bases without hitting the baseball. And when he knew the last pitch was too high, Hill said, “I just smiled. It felt so good to be state champs.”