AMERICAN FORK — American Fork has proven one of the state's best baseball programs in recent history, although home-run hitting has rarely been one of the team's qualities.
That could be changing, however, if Wednesday's 9-6 win over Riverton is any indication.
The Cavemen slugged three home runs in spectacular fashion, stringing all three together in an exciting bottom half of the sixth inning, as an always enthusiastic team dugout went a bit nuts, as a result.
"I don't know if that's ever happened here," said American Fork coach Jarod Ingersoll. "But we have some guys who have a lot of pop in their bats, and it was a lot of fun. Kids were excited and hopefully we can keep it going, after having some early struggles with the bat."
The three home runs strung together in the sixth matched the entire season total put up last season by an American Fork team that made a deep run in the state playoffs, with Ryan Hardman leading off the power display. The shortstop hit a liner that managed to clear the left field fence for two RBI while extending American Fork's lead to 7-4.
One batter later Colton Carpenter cleared the same fence, with Dawson Parry cleaning things up with a towering fly ball that easily cleared the centerfield fence. The end result was a commanding 9-4 lead entering the top of the seventh inning, and although the Silverwolves managed two runs in the seventh, the margin provided by the three home runs proved too much.
For Ingersoll, he was pleased his team stuck with the process after some frustrating at-bats early in the game, and early in the season.
"If the kids keep with their approach, it's there for them, and today showed that," he said. "I certainly can't expect to hit those back to back to back again, but that's the type of thing I believe this team can do if they continue to trust their approach."
Things were tight in the early innings on Wednesday, with the two teams entering the bottom half of the fourth tied at 2-2. But three runs put up in the innings, one on an RBI bunt single by Marty McCoy and a two-RBI single from Carpenter gave the Cavemen a 5-2 lead entering the fifth.
Both teams went scoreless in the fifth before Kody Nelson's 2-RBI double cut the lead to 5-4 entering the bottom half of the sixth inning.
For Ingersoll, he was generally pleased with the result, while quickly noting several things his team needs to get better.
"Our base-running was not sharp. We left some runs out there, and you're not happy with that. That has to get better," Ingersoll said. "Our defense was very good, for the most part, and bailed us out of some tough situations our pitchers put us in by not throwing enough strikes. But overall it was a great way to start things off, beating a really good team like Riverton — a team that will be a dangerous team throughout the year and come tournament time."
With the win, American Fork improves to 5-1 on the early season and will work to keep things going when taking on Jordan early next week. Riverton falls to 2-2 with the loss.