Great way to end it. These kids have battled adversity. We’ve had so many things go against this team, and they’ve fought their butts off all year long. And we’ve been strong in the face of adversity. – American Fork coach Jared Ingersoll
OREM — Twenty-four hours after losing to rival Lone Peak in the 5A playoffs, American Fork returned to UVU on Friday confident and ready to play two.
The Cavemen swept the three-game region series, and firmly believed they could beat Lone Peak — the last unbeaten team in the double-elimination tournament — twice on the last day of the regular season.
That’s exactly what American Fork did, prevailing 8-4 in Game 1 and then 13-9 in Game 2 to capture its first state championship since 2012.
The Cavemen never trailed in the 14 innings as they used two big innings in the first game and then three big innings in the second game to clinch the championship.
“Great way to end it. These kids have battled adversity. We’ve had so many things go against this team, and they’ve fought their butts off all year long. And we’ve been strong in the face of adversity,” said American Fork coach Jared Ingersoll.
American Fork finished the year with a 5-1 record against Lone Peak.
The Cavemen jumped all over Lone Peak in the first inning.
With five singles and three walks, eight of American Fork’s first nine batters reached as the Cavemen scored five quick runs in the bottom of the first. For Lone Peak, it could’ve been much worse, but pitcher Seth Corry recorded back-to-back strikeouts with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Down 5-1 after the first, Lone Peak’s bats went right to work, responding with three runs on four singles to whittle the deficit to 5-4.
Corry settled down in the second inning with a quick 1-2-3 inning, and then in the third appeared on his way to another goose egg when he forced a grounder to first base with two outs. A booted ball allowed Spencer Shelton to reach on an error though, and the next batter, Hagen Holmstead, laced a two-run double to left to put the Cavemen ahead 7-4.
Buster Hardman followed with an RBI single to stretch the lead to 8-4.
Lone Peak finished the game with four errors after committing three in the earlier loss.
The error couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time. Corry had fully settled down after the disastrous first inning. He had seven strikeouts prior to that third-inning error that led to three American Fork runs.
He didn’t let it wear on him, though. Corry struck out the side in the bottom of the fourth — finishing the game with 13 — and then followed with a towering three-run homer to right in the fifth inning to cut American Fork’s lead to 8-7.
“If we play with the lead, we never lose, and that’s all we’ve done all year,” said American Fork pitcher Mick Madsen
In the bottom of the sixth, American Fork put the game out of reach, capitalizing on a couple of errors to score five runs to build a 13-7 lead.
The first error came on a line drive to first that bounced out of the first baseman’s glove. Had he snared it, he would’ve easily doubled up the base runner at first and kept the game at 8-7 heading into the seventh.
Corry added a two-run home run in the top of the seventh to cut the deficit to 13-9, but Madsen ended the threat with a strikeout.
American Fork’s coaches didn’t feel like Madsen could pitch all seven innings and be fresh at the end of the game, so they started freshman Travis Johnson, who pitched two innings.
“I said, ‘you get through one inning and I’ll pitch the rest’ and he got through two,” said Madsen, who finished with six strikeouts.
Ybarra was the unsung hero at the plate for Lone Peak as he went 2 for 3 with three RBIs from his No. 9 spot in the lineup, and Hagen Holmstead went 2 for 5 with two RBIs.
Earlier in the day, American Fork used big third and sixth innings to pull away from Lone Peak for the 8-4 victory in the first 5A championship game.
Lone Peak committed three fielding errors and a few other mental errors in the sixth, allowing American Fork to build a 7-2 lead. Payton Freeman hit a two-run homer for the Knights in the bottom of the sixth, but it wasn’t enough as the Cavemen handed them their first loss of the state tournament to force a second title game.
James Edward is the Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: email@example.com