Oh, my gosh, I’ve been waiting for this for four years. This is ridiculous, greatest feeling in the world. You have no idea. ... It’s amazing. – American Fork’s B.J. Eldredge
View photo gallery: 5A baseball state championship game: Taylorsville vs. American Fork
View photo gallery: 5A state baseball: Taylorsville vs. American Fork, Game 1
KEARNS — There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that the last time American Fork High School won a state championship in baseball, it was when the original Cavemen roamed the earth.
But it had been quite awhile — 27 years, to be exact — since these Cavemen from Utah County with big, hard-hitting clubs in their hands took home the first-place prize on the diamond.
Well, the long wait is finally over.
Junior right-hander Riley Ottesen gutted out a complete-game victory and knocked in what proved to be the winning run to cap a clutch sixth-inning comeback, and senior center fielder B.J. Eldredge had three huge RBIs and a couple of critical defensive plays as A.F. claimed the crown with a tense 5-4 victory over Taylorsville in the 5A title game Friday evening at Kearns High School's Gates Field.
"Oh, my gosh, I've been waiting for this for four years," said Eldredge with a smile so bright it would light up a dark cave. "This is ridiculous, greatest feeling in the world. You have no idea. ... It's amazing.
"It was scary, but we did the same thing in the Alta game (on Thursday), came back in the top of the seventh. The whole team believes in each other and never lets anything get us down. It just takes one inning for us, and that's what we did today."
Taylorsville (24-8) pushed these latter-day Cavemen to the limit, forcing a winner-take-all showdown by beating American Fork earlier Friday, 6-2. The Warriors then jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the two teams' second matchup, and it looked like the state title might very well be headed back to Taylorsville for the first time since 2002.
But American Fork (25-6), which lost in the 5A finale a year ago, came up with another gritty rally that has been the never-say-die Cavemen's trademark all season long.
"You know, you lose that first game, it's kind of tough to turn around and find momentum," said A.F. coach Jarod Ingersoll. "But somehow they just find a way. We haven't been a great come-from-behind team this year because we've been out in front of people so much. But there's been several times in this tournament where we've had to get it done with two outs and a big hit here or a big pitch there, and the kids did it. They're the state champs — it feels good.
"I was trying hard not to panic. And we just talked about steady — if I'd have clammed up, they'd have clammed up. But they did a great job; they deserve it, they're the hardest workers, they're the best team in the state of Utah.
"I'm just so proud of the guys and what they've done and what they've been able to accomplish," Ingersoll said. "These guys have just worked their butts off — in the weight room, we've done a ton of conditioning, we've talked about it and we've preached that we're the best team. And you know what? They came out and they got it done when they had to. Just all that work ethic and then seeing them grow and actually accomplish the huge goal that was our goal, it's awesome. They deserve all the credit."
Trailing 4-2 entering the bottom of the sixth inning, Jake Miles started things off with a walk, and Cade Hill followed with a bunt single. Jeremy Reynolds' sacrifice bunt pushed the runners over into scoring position, and Zac Haws smacked a run-scoring single to right field to make it 4-3.
Haws advanced to second on a wild pitch, and Eldredge then drove home the tying run with a soft grounder to the right side, with Haws moving to third base on the play. After Mo Flinders walked, Ottesen stepped up to the plate and, after falling behind in the count 0-2, he poked a run-scoring single into right field as Haws hustled home with the go-ahead run.
"The hit was very lucky," Ottesen said. "He got me 0-2, made me look foolish. And then he happened to give me something at least close to the plate and I was able to throw my hands out and get the bat on the ball and it found luck. It was a hundred percent luck it was able to drop in and have the winning run come in.
"I was thinking just try to get the bat on the ball and do everything I can for our team to have a chance. And luckily I got the bat on the ball and it went over the head (of the Taylorsville second baseman)."
Ottesen, who had given up five hits and four runs through the first two innings but only two hits since then, then retired the side in order in the seventh inning, with Eldredge hauling in the final out on a fly ball to center field to seal the deal.
"He's just a competitor," Ingersoll said of Ottesen, who transferred to A.F. from Lone Peak. "He's one of the best ballplayers in the state, obviously, on the mound. But he can do it with his glove, he can do it with his speed, he can do it with his hitting. He's just a great, great player.
"He's just a tough kid. He's a heck of a pitcher; he's done it all year long for us, and sometimes you've just got to keep going with those guys."
Eldredge, the No. 9 hitter in the lineup whose two-run single in the second inning trimmed American Fork's deficit to 4-2, was quick to give the credit to his teammates and Ottesen's performance and leadership ability.
"The whole year, every single time Riley pitched, he's just a straight-up leader," Eldredge said. "Whenever he pitches, the whole team picks up from him and he can just get everyone going, even when we're down by two or four runs. He's just a great leader and has done a great job; he's done it the whole season.
"I attribute that (his game-high three RBIs) to the other kids, though, getting on base and doing their job today. It was a total team effort, and we couldn't have done it without everyone.
"The first thing was, coach just made sure we weren't down (after losing to Taylorsville earlier in the day)," Eldredge said. "Coach said, 'Hey, smile, we get to play another game.' We just had that confidence knowing we're the best team this year, and we just came out and did it as a team."
Taylorsville struck quickly in the first inning. Dallas Carroll led off with a first-pitch double to left-center field, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on Kyle Hoffman's groundout for a 1-0 lead which might've been bigger if Dalton Carroll, trying to score from second base on a single by Jake Davison, hadn't been gunned down at home on a great throw from Eldredge.
The Warriors put three more runs up on the scoreboard in the second inning, all of them scoring with two outs. Adam Fullmer was hit by a pitch and, two outs later, Dallas Carroll singled. Kyle Hoffman lived on a fielder's choice when Dallas Carroll beat the throw to second base on an attempted forceout. Then Dalton Carroll bounced a two-run single through the left side, and Hoffman soon came in to score on a wild pitch to make it 4-0.
"Yeah, I was thinking it was not my day," said Ottesen, who effectively changed things up after that earlier Taylorsville onslaught, working inside to try and jam the Warriors' hitters, and credited his defense for playing its tails off. "Coach just said 'You don't have to overthrow, you don't have to overpower these guys.' He said 'You're a heck of a pitcher and just do your job; do your job and throw strikes.' "
American Fork got two of those runs back in the bottom of the second, when Jake Miles singled, Cade Hill reached on an error and, after two outs, Eldredge smacked a two-run single to make it 4-2.
That set the stage for the Cavemen's decisive three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth.
"B.J. Eldredge made amazing plays today," Ottesen said. "He definitely had my back today, he did everything he could for me and for the team. Right when (the final Taylorsville batter) hit it, I knew B.J. would be there because he's always got my back. I'm just glad B.J. was able to camp under it and catch it."
TAYLORSVILLE 6, AMERICAN FORK 2: Dalton Carroll threw 5 2/3 strong innings and Larenz Stansfield drove in three runs as the Warriors pushed the 5A championship finale to a winner-take-all second game by dealing American Fork its first loss in this year's tournament.
Carroll gave up seven hits and two runs, both unearned, before turning things over to Jake Greenberg, who got the final four outs to give Taylorsville a chance for its first state championship in baseball since 2002.
The Warriors capitalized on some early wildness by A.F. starter Danny Beddes in the first inning, scoring two runs on two walks, a run-scoring fielder's choice by Stansfield and a passed ball. The Cavemen cut the gap to 2-1 in the second when Cade Hill singled, advanced to third on a pair of passed balls and scored on a grounder by Jeremy Reynolds.
But Hayden Heugly's sacrifice fly gave Taylorsville a 3-1 lead in the fourth, and the Warriors put it out of reach with three runs in the fifth. A hit batter and a fielder's choice gone awry put runners at first and second with nobody out and, after a groundout moved the runners into scoring position, Stansfield stroked a two-run single to right field. Jackson Roper followed with an RBI single of his own to make it 6-1.
A.F. picked up an unearned run in the sixth, but Greenberg shut the door on the Cavemen after that.
5A All-Tournament Team
MVP: Riley Ottesen, American Fork
Blake Brailsford, American Fork
Morgan Flinders, American Fork
B.J. Eldredge, American Fork
Dallas Carroll, Taylorsville
Dalton Carroll, Taylorsville
Hayden Heugly, Taylorsville
Larenz Stansfield, Taylorsville
Beau Kallas, Alta
Brennon Lund, Bingham
Hayden Udy, Syracuse