West Jordan • Longtime baseball fans are known to revere the sport’s lore in the distant past.
And they do start ‘em young in Spanish Fork.
Heading into the final day of the Class 5A season, two teams from Spanish Fork readied themselves to battle for the state crown. Both had entered the playoffs with relatively low seeds — for championship contenders, that is.
And, for motivation, one squad had pulled out a bit of baseball history from when these players had just been born, or were about to be born.
“We had a team motto, we stole it from the Red Sox in ’04, man, why not us?” said Spanish Fork pitcher Zac Dart after the 7th-seeded Dons had just handed Maple Mountain a 14-3 loss to win the title.
“We came in saying ‘Why not us?,” Dart added. “Because, you know we’re the seventh seed but we’re as good as any team here. And we proved that this tournament.”
Dart also proved to be the shutdown pitcher at the critical juncture when Spanish Fork needed him the most.
The day of baseball at Cate Field at Salt Lake Community College started with Maple Mountain, the sixth seed, clubbing the Dons 10-5. But because the Eagles entered the day with one loss in the double-elimination state tourney, they were only able to force Spanish Fork into a second, winner-take-all battle.
And, clearly, the sixth-seeded Eagles were on a roll.
By knocking out top-seeded Olympus with a 10-0 blowout on Wednesday, Maple Mountain had turned the 5A closing rounds into a strictly Utah County affair. The Eagles then beat Orem twice to make it to the final day while Spanish Fork was nipping Salem Hills to get to Saturday.
That roll for Maple Mountain continued in the first game when the Eagles knocked Spanish Fork starting pitcher Bridger Hall out in the second inning. But while Maple Mountain was building a 10-2 lead, Dart was anxiously readying himself while playing at first.
“Bridge had a rough day and that’s not Bridge, obviously. He’s been great for us all year, it just happens,” Dart said. “I was just thinking, ‘Let me get at these guys, let me get at these guys.’ To be honest, I wanted that first game to get over.”
Spanish Fork (23-11) got a quick run in the first inning of the second game when Boston Bradford, who singled to start the game, scored on a grounder. Another run came in the third when Dart singled in fellow junior Brody Duvall.
Duvall, who had doubled to get into scoring position in that frame, also singled in the fourth — part of a four-run outburst, highlighted by a two-run homer by Dart, that gave the Dons a 6-0 lead.
“Baseball’s a crazy sport and anything can happen,” said Duvall of his team’s positive attitude between games. “Momentum shifts fast.”
Although Maple Mountain (23-12) reached Dart for two runs in the bottom of the fourth, following doubles by Tyler Nelson, Jackson Hollingshaus and Josh Crandall, the Eagles never got near their prodigious output of the first contest.
And, in the end, Spanish Fork celebrated the school’s eighth baseball state championship by doing something coach Casey Nelson prepped the team for at the beginning of the season.
“Something we practiced at the first of the year was dog-piling. It doesn’t come to fruition all the time, but it did right there,” said Nelson, after the team’s members disentangled from the pile.
“We just go out there and do it,” answered Nelson on how to practice a dog-pile — although in reality the celebration went a little askew. “Pretend like we won a state championship by getting nine guys out there. Get an umpire to call strike three and we dog-pile on the mound.
“It’s something we haven’t practiced since March, so let’s give them some credit.”
American Fork put itself in position to win the big school’s state baseball title by beating Pleasant Grove 9-6 on Friday.
And the Cavemen capitalized on the opportunity by shutting down the Vikings 8-0 in the 6A finale at Utah Valley University in Orem.
Junior pitcher Kaden Carpenter shut down the Vikings on Saturday, striking out eight batters and scattering five hits while finishing out a complete-game shutout.
The only loss of the season for American Fork (30-1) came earlier in May against Pleasant Grove (26-6).
But, backing Carpenter’s work on the mound, the Cavemen got a quick 1-0 lead on the Vikings in the first inning and then rallied for five runs in the second.
Junior Fisher Ingersoll had the big bat for American Fork on Saturday, belting two home runs and driving in three runs. AF hitters Ryder Robinson and Easton Whittaker, at the top of the Cavemen lineup, also had two RBIs each as American Fork captured its10th overall state title and first since 2016.