KEARNS — After 16 stressful innings Wednesday, Pleasant Grove is still very much alive in the 5A state baseball tournament heading into the final two days of the season.
The Vikings needed nine innings to beat Copper Hills 6-5 in the first elimination game at Kearns High, and then they eked out a tense 5-4 victory over defending state champ Bingham in the nightcap.
“Bingham’s a wonderful team, they do a great job, but you know what it’s nice to dethrone the state champions,” said Pleasant Grove coach Darrin Henry.
With the victory, Pleasant Grove advances to Thursday’s semifinals at UVU at 7 p.m., and will face the loser of the Layton-Jordan game, which begins at 4:30 p.m.
Payton Henry delivered the big hit for Pleasant Grove in the top of the sixth, an RBI single up the middle that put the Vikings ahead 5-4.
Relief pitcher Logan Carlson, who came on in the third inning, finished the job in impressive fashion in the sixth and seventh. In fact, after taking over for starter Brody Blackhurst in the third, Carlson only gave up four hits in the final five innings.
He struck out three of the last four hitters he faced to punch Pleasant Grove’s ticket into the consolation final of the 5A state tourney.
“He comes in relief and just shuts the door all day on those guys,” said Henry. “He hasn’t pitched a lot this year but he’s sure been ready, he’s been throwing his pens and getting prepared every single day and it’s times like these that we just tell those guys all season, you’re going to get your chance and will you shine or not, and he did.”
Pleasant Grove, which had scored in the first inning of its three previous one-loss bracket games at Kearns this week, did so again Wednesday night.
After leadoff hitter Easton Walker drew a walk to open the game, Ben Eldredge doubled to drive home Walker. Eldredge later scored on a Jade Smoot single and Henry came around on a throwing error to put the Vikings ahead 3-0.
Bingham plated a run in its half of the first, cutting the deficit to 3-1, and after Pleasant Grove tacked on a run in the second, Bingham added two more in the second.
Despite a shaky stretch in the third in which he walked three straight, Florez pitched three straight innings of shutout baseball with four strikeouts.
After Bingham tied the game at 4-4 on a fourth-inning RBI single from Cloward, Florez started to tire in the sixth.
The Vikings' No. 9 hitter Matthew Wilde doubled to open the inning and came around to score on Henry’s single up the middle for the 5-4 lead. Pleasant Grove could’ve blown the game wide open with the bases loaded and one out, but Florez got out of the jam by forcing back-to-back ground outs.
“He hasn’t been hitting the ball like he has all year, but he came up in a situation with guys at first and second and gets the game winner for us. It’s just about grinding, and this team, every stinking game someone else is the hero and that’s what I love about them,” said coach Henry.
In Pleasant Grove’s first win on Wednesday, it prevailed in thrilling fashion against Copper Hills. The Vikings jumped out to the early lead on back-to-back home runs by Walker and Eldredge to start the game.
In the sixth Copper Hills rallied to tie the game at 5-5, but in the bottom of the ninth the Vikings put the game away for good as Blackhurst singled home the winning run with the bases loaded and no outs.
Bingham, meanwhile, kept its season alive by pounding Lone Peak 16-7. The Miners scored three runs in each of the first three innings, capitalizing on four Lone Peak errors in the first frame.