HIGHLAND — At baseball practice Wednesday the Spanish Fork Dons were worked a lot tougher by the coaches in hopes of getting them to compete a little harder.
Apparently, the off-day shakeup worked. Coming off a 9-1 humbling loss to Lone Peak on Tuesday, the Dons reversed fortunes Thursday with a 12-5 win over the Knights. In the victory, which puts Spanish Fork and Lone Peak back into a tie atop the Region 4 standings with 6-2 records, the Dons hit and pitched the ball a whole lot better than they did Tuesday.
"We got back to basics," Spanish Fork coach Jim "Shoe" Nelson said. "We got back to competing. We got back to playing hard. We got back to supporting one another and being into the games rather than just showing up and thinking 'hey, we're Spanish Fork and since we're supposed to be good, we're good.' We have to do it on the field. Today we did it on the field."
The spark plug for the Dons, who ended a two-game skid, came from an unlikely source. Shaun Peterson didn't play Tuesday. But with Brock Duke on the mound Peterson was back in the infield and back in the No. 9 spot in the batting order. With the bases loaded and the Dons trailing 4-0 in the second, Peterson pulled a two-strike pitch down the left-field line to score two runs. Peterson's single lit a fire under the Dons who went on to score five more runs in the frame and pull away from there.
"That was a big hit," Nelson said. "He only plays every other game, but he's always ready to go and he delivered the clutch hit for us."
Much of Spanish Fork's production also came from a couple of likely sources. Tyler Hanks followed up Peterson's two-run single with a two-run double to the right-field gap. He finished the game with four hits.
Duke, after giving up four first-inning runs on five Lone Peak hits, settled down and allowed only one run and four hits the rest of the way. In the four-run inning Dillon Robinson had an RBI single and Daniel Sechrest a two-run double for the Knights.
But after a visit to the mound by Nelson, Duke retired the next 12 hitters he faced and Lone Peak never really hit the ball hard again.
"I told him to quit throwing the ball and start pitching it,"
Nelson said. "=46rom that point on, I don't think he threw 10 more fastballs."
Spanish Fork was also aided by control problems from Lone Peak's pitchers. Starter Jared Christensen was pulled in the second after he issued three walks and hit two batters. Relievers Ryan Stephan and Mitch Flygare combined to hit three more batters.
The Knights also had five miscues in the field. In the fourth inning alone, Spanish Fork scored three runs on three consecutive errors at third base.
Ironically, in a game where the Knights played some of their poorest defense of the year they turned in some of their best defensive plays of the season. They used two double plays to kill two more Spanish Fork scoring threats. Shortstop Brennan Holmstead also saved at least one run when, with two outs and the bases loaded, he ran down a grounder deep in the hole and made a leaping throw to first to nip the runner. Second baseman Matt Williams also turned in a dandy when, with two outs and two runners on, he made a diving stop on a grounder up the middle and flipped the ball while lying on his back to Holmstead at second for an inning-ending force out.