OREM — The Spanish Fork Dons and Springville Red Devils have had some classic baseball games over the years.
The battle they waged Friday at Brent Brown Ballpark in the 4A state tournament winners' bracket, however, ranks among the best.
Many — because of Spanish Fork's lofty 23-1 record heading into the game and 3-0 mark this year against Springville — didn't expect the Red Devils to provide much resistance. Not only did the Dons beat Springville three times during Region 8 play, they dominated them — outscoring the Red Devils 30-5.
But beating a team four times in one year in baseball, regardless of what happened in previous meetings, is a difficult task.
"It's pretty much impossible to do," Spanish Fork coach Jim "Shoe" Nelson said.
And even though Spanish Fork prevailed 9-7 Friday in a nine-inning thriller, the victory didn't come easy. In fact, it was in doubt a time or two.
"That was a typical Springville/Spanish Fork battle," Nelson said. "We've had many just like that over the years. We've won some, we've lost some. Today, we were fortunate enough to win."
After the both teams came out of the gate like gangbusters, scoring five runs each in the first two innings, both failed to push another run across over the next five frames.
The Dons scored two in the first on Kayden Porter's towering two-run homer to left. The Red Devils came right back with two of their own on Shawn Bulow's two-out, two-run single. Spanish Fork added three more runs in the second, partly due to three Springville errors and with the help of a run-scoring single by James Lengal.
"I thought maybe if we came out and jumped them early, like we did, we could maybe get them to think 'Here we go again.' But they stuck their noses in there and competed to the bitter end," Nelson said.
As Spanish Fork's coach said, the Red Devils didn't pack it in. With the bases loaded, and again with two outs, Steve Bate ripped a double into the right-field gap to clear the sacks and knot the game 5-5.
Over the next five innings, however, Spanish Fork starter Hayden Nielsen settled down and retired 17 of Springville's next 19 batters.
"For a sophomore, he battled and competed. You could see he was playing on guts," Nelson said of his young starter.
The Dons, on the other hand, put two runners on in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings and loaded the bases in the sixth but failed to score again in the regulation seven innings.
However, Spanish Fork finally broke through in the eighth when — after Springville intentionally walked Porter — Dallas Smith lined an RBI single to left. He then scored on Travis Still's sacrifice fly, giving the Dons a 7-5 lead.
In the bottom half, the Red Devils finally got their sticks going again and loaded the bases with one out. Nielsen enticed a foul pop to get within an out of victory. Todd Gillies spoiled that plan when he bounced a two-out double over the bag at third to score two runs and tie the game again. With the potential winning run on third, however, Nielsen kept the Dons alive with a strikeout.
The Dons, with new life, went to work again in the ninth. After Andy Perkins drew a one-out walk, Lengal smashed a deep run-scoring triple off the wall in left-center. Adam Duke then singled in Lengal to put Spanish Fork up 9-7.
"James has been money. He's had a great tournament and is swinging the bat really well," Nelson said.
Nelson, with the lead, wasn't taking any more chances and brought in Duke, his ace, to end the suspense in the bottom of the ninth, retiring three of four batters with two strikeouts.
SPRINGVILLE 13, TIMPANOGOS 1: The Red Devils earned a rematch with Spanish Fork in today's championship by routing Region 7 champion Timpanogos 13-1 in Friday night's elimination one-loss bracket final.
Springville scored seven runs in the first, two in the second and four more in the third as the Timberwolves went through three pitchers in the first three innings. It was Springville's second win over Timpanogos this week. Mitch Paystrup hit a three-run homer for Springville.