SPANISH FORK — Maple Mountain’s Arik Mack was oblivious to what he had done until postgame sprints.
The No. 2 Golden Eagles had just topped No. 1 Salem Hills, 2-1, to claim sole possession of first place in Region 8. It was a moment worthy of celebration, and Mack excitedly trotted toward an onslaught of jubilant teammates. Little did he know, despite allowing one run, he had thrown a no-hitter.
“I was going through my mind like, ‘I guess that was,’” he said.
Mack’s no-hitter was a curious case indeed. He struck out 11 batters, fanning seven in the first four innings alone, but he also walked five and beaned two. In the sixth inning, not only was his no-hitter in jeopardy, he was staring at the possibility of losing the game without allowing a base hit.
Facing a 1-0 deficit, Salem Hills’ Taylor Snyder cracked a hotshot one-hopper down the third baseline following an opening at-bat strikeout. Maple Mountain’s Kade Poulsen gloved the heater — his pants in the dirt — but as he regained his footing, he missed his intended target at first. However, because the throw beat the runner, and would have been an out, it was called an error and preserved the no-hitter.
Mack beaned the following batter and walked the next. Suddenly, with one out, the bases were juiced. On the ensuing pitch, the second-base umpire called Mack for an illegal balk to knot things up at 1-1.
“He’s just trying to do his job,” Mack said. “If he says I balked, I probably did. I felt like I didn’t but he saw what he saw.”
Maple Mountain’s coach Gary Miner approached the mound to calm the nerves of his ace.
“Why were we in the sixth inning, not in a desperation situation, but a pretty tight spot? It’s just trust what you do,” Miner said of his conversation with Mack. “So, don’t try and micromanage and try and do too much. We had the error in the sixth inning and two walks. Trust who you are, what you are and trust that your teammates are going to be behind you because that’s where the wins are going to come.”
Mack inhaled deeply.
“I was struggling finding the plate the last couple of innings, and I turned around and saw all my guys and they’re like, ‘Let’s go,’ and I was like, ‘Got to bear down.’ I was just going right at them to see what they could do,” he explained.
Like a crack of whip, he blazed the next two batters to get out of the jam.
“One of his strengths has been ‘been there, done that,’ so he has to make sure the emotions are put in check,” Miner said of Mack, who is a four-year starter that signed with BYU. “I don’t agree with the call. I can go out and yell and scream and get tossed from the game, but it’s not going to change the call. If he doesn’t check those emotions — you’ve got guys on second and third with one out. So, you go from a very positive situation to now we’re battling from behind.”
With the score tied, it appeared destined to go into extra innings unless something magical happened. Because, similar to Mack, Salem Hills pitcher Colton Hill was flirting with a no-hitter, too. It wasn’t until the fifth inning with two outs that consecutive singles ended that quest. Hill finished with six strikeouts in his first loss of the year.
But extra innings weren't in the cards.
Fresh off his error at third, Poulson — only a freshman — bounced back by roping a two-out RBI double in the center-field gap in what ultimately proved as the game-winner.
“That was awesome,” Mack said. “I had just got wrung up on that curveball and I’m back there pounding my fists like, 'Come on let’s go.' I go out and see the freshman and I’m like ‘Yes! That kid is a freaking stud.’”
The Eagles (13-4, 9-0) and SkyHawks (17-3, 8-1) meet again Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at Salem Hills.