OREM — A focus on executing the seemingly little things effectively can pay big dividends in baseball, and did so for Cottonwood in its thrilling 7-6 win over Timpanogos on Friday. In a game featuring last season's 5A and 4A state champions, the Colts jumped on the Timberwolves early and were then able to rally late for the big win.
As for those little things, it turns out the game-winning run came by virtue of what Cottonwood coach Jason Crawford defines as "winning the hard 90." The 90 refers to the 90 feet between bases, and in Friday's instance, home plate to first base specifically. With one out in the top of the seventh inning, and runners on first and third, Cottonwood's Jason Luke grounded to the shortstop for what appeared a likely inning-ending double play. But Luke took off toward first base without hesitation, narrowly beating out the relay from second base, allowing the runner to score from third base in the process.
"It was a great effort, and it was definitely the difference in the ballgame," Crawford said. "If he just rolls over and doesn't hustle it out, we very well could have come away here with a loss."
Luke wasn't alone in his hustle out of the batter's box. Daniel Gonzalez was able to get a home run as well by his hustle in another would-be double play, pushing the Colts' lead to 4-1 in the top of the fourth inning.
"It's always important to get breathing room early, but especially against a team as tough as Timpanogos," Crawford said. "You know you're in for a fight for all seven innings, so getting to an early lead — we saw how important that was in taking just a 7-6 win."
Early RBIs for the Colts came from Gonzalez, Luke and Dylan Reiser, with Ross Dunn keeping Timpanogos' bats quiet for the early part of the game.
The Timberwolves didn't relent, however, and fought back with four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game at 6-6. Two of the runs came on a critical throwing error made by relief pitcher Porter Hodge, allowing two Timpanogos runs to cross the plate after an errant throw made to get the runner from third out on a ground ball back to the mound.
Hodge was able to come back though, and pitch a gem of a seventh inning to secure the win for his team.
"He's normally a starting pitcher for us, so putting him in there, in that tough spot — it wasn't ideal," Crawford said. "He did a great job of regaining his composure when it could have unraveled on him. I was really happy with how he kept at it, and he showed how tough of a player he is."
Although it was a non-region game, Crawford feels he'll likely see Timpanogos again in the postseason, as both teams now compete in 5A, making the win a big one for a team that lost a good portion of the primary players who secured last year's 5A championship.
"We'll both get better, and hopefully we can meet up again down the road," Crawford said. "We're a really young team, and a lot of the guys are unproven, so I couldn't be more happy with the way we've started the year, and then with how they performed today."