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Prep baseball: Alta pitcher's defensive play decisive in 2-1 win over Copper Hills

WEST JORDAN — With three outs remaining in the bottom of the seventh, Alta coach Barry Harrington approached the mound at Copper Hills High Wednesday afternoon. It was time to make the call to the bullpen.

Khale Tilby, in six innings of work, had held the 5A's third-ranked Grizzlies, whom had entered the second game of the series with 109 runs scored on the year, to a single run on one hit.

However, his day's work wasn't quite done.

"He walks over, and his arm is hanging a little bit," Harrington said about whistling for relief. "I said 'well, (you're) staying in.'"

Now, playing second base, Tilby hopped on a screamer hit toward the gap, flipped it to short for the 4-6-3 double-play — helping Alta to a 2-1 victory after Copper Hills' popped up the ensuing at-bat.

"It was a great play, great read, stayed down on the ball and nice feed to short," Harrington said. "I couldn't ask for a more picture-perfect play."

Copper Hills notched the first game of the series on Tuesday. The rubber match is set for Friday at Alta.

"This is a really tough league and every win is precious," said Harrington, whose squad improved to 8-7 overall and 3-2 in Region 3 play. "That's a good club. They've got good tradition, good staff. It'll be a really good game on Friday; I just hope we can keep stringing things together."

The Grizzlies (11-4, 3-2) drew first blood in the second inning. With Zach Watts resting on second, Tilby sailed an errant pitch that aimlessly dribbled towards the Alta dugout. Watts intuitively boogied home amidst the confusion for the early advantage.

Typically, even that small of a cushion presumably is enough for Copper Hills' ace, JC Bird. Towering at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Bird sported a perfect 3-0 record heading into Wednesday.

Alta, however, steadily picked at Bird and finally capitalized in the fifth. The Hawks finished with nine hits, seven off Bird.

With two outs, Alta's Brittan Wren jumped on a pitch left lingering over the plate for an RBI double. The following batter, Jesse Emery, slapped another two-bagger to give the Hawks the decisive lead.

"Put a couple hits together and capitalized on that," Harrington said of the fifth inning. "(Wren) came up with that nice hit to the wall and had everything going right there — boom, boom — then we were able to have (Wren) come in. The bottom of the order came up big for us."