OREM — For five innings Friday morning, it appeared that Gunnison's bid for a repeat title in the 2A state baseball tournament was going to take a detour.
While matched up with Richfield in the winners' bracket finals, it looked as if the Bulldogs were going to have to come back from the one-loss side of the tournament if they wanted to win it all again.
The Wildcats held a one-run lead through the first five innings. But in the dugout, Gunnison never stopped believing it was going to find a way to get back the run and go on to a win.
"We never got down on ourselves," said coach Jared Anderson. "We told the guys to just keep battling through it and something good was going to happen. We just needed someone to step up and get a big hit for us."
That big hit came in the form of a two-run triple from catcher Jace Anderson with one out in the top of the sixth inning. Gunnison rode the momentum of that burst to two more runs in the rally and held on for a 4-3 win to advance to the state title game for the third consecutive year.
"I was just looking for a fastball I could drive," said Jace Anderson. "I got a pitch I could handle and hit it hard. When I saw that it was past the outfielder, it was one of the best feelings in my life.'
The reason Gunnison still had a chance for Anderson's heroics was starting pitcher Bradley Jackson. The right-handed hurler threw all seven innings to pick up the win. He scattered six hits and struck out 10 while walking only one.
"I was just battling," said Jackson. "My arm was a little tight and I didn't have my best stuff, but these are the type of days you are going to have in baseball. My fastball was what I mostly had to rely on. I threw some curves, but mostly I just used my fastball and tried to throw it by them."
Richfield's Dylan Peterson was equally impressive for the first five innings. He kept Gunnison off balance and confused them with an array of pitches. He gave up only two hits through the first five innings to keep a 1-0 lead — J.D. Michaelsen had an RBI triple in the second inning. He also got some defensive help when, in the third inning, left fielder Ben Jorgenson threw out Matthew Harris at home.
Bryant Davis had an RBI in the sixth for Gunnison, and it scored another run on an error, but the Wildcats didn't quit and scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth on RBIs from Zach Cropper and Colten Shepherd for the final 4-3 score.
Gunnison moves to today's title game at UVSC at 11 a.m. and needs only win once to make it back-to-back state championships.
"We've worked all year for this, so we know what is at stake," said Jackson. "We just need to go out and play our game of baseball, and we know we can get it done."