SPANISH FORK — A couple of future BYU Cougars played big for Spanish Fork in its big 5-2 win over Lehi on Thursday as the Region 10 battle nears conclusion. The win avenged a tough 3-2 loss taken the day before to the Pioneers while clearing the Dons one game ahead of both Salem Hills and Lehi with just two weeks left until the state tournament.
"I think it was huge," said Spanish Fork pitcher Cy Nielson regarding the importance of Thursday's win. "We really came together as a team. It wasn't the cleanest game, but losing yesterday kind of set a new tone."
Nielson, who plans to pitch for the Cougars at the collegiate level, set the tone early from the mound, striking out two batters in the top of the first inning with his teammates following his lead. Three runs were plated in the bottom half of the first, with Nielson leading off the scoring with a 2-RBI triple, which was followed up by a Noah Conway RBI single.
"It makes it so much easier with a 3-0 lead," Nielson said. "You can just go at it with my full confidence."
Nielson's confidence showed throughout, with the lefty finishing with six strikeouts over six innings pitched. He worked quickly and confidently throughout, working to keep the Pioneers off-balance while limiting scoring opportunities.
BYU doesn’t know just how good of a player they’re getting. He’s going to be a hard guy to fill in for next year ... We love him. – Spanish Fork coach Gub Nelson about Andrew Pintar
Lehi wasn't completely shut out, however, and looked to create lots of problems in the top of the sixth with runners on first and second base with no one out. But Nielson secured three straight outs, aided big-time by shortstop Andrew Pintar, who snagged a soft liner before casually stepping on second base for a double play to end the inning.
"He's been making plays like that for three years for us," said Spanish Fork coach Gub Nelson about Pintar, who is also set to play for BYU after graduation. "BYU doesn't know just how good of a player they're getting. He's going to be a hard guy to fill in for next year ... We love him."
A big key in Thursday's win was creating traffic on the base pads all game long, with the Dons drawing a total of five bases-on-balls while proving opportunistic enough times to maintain a comfortable lead throughout.
"Guys were patient, although I wish we could have gotten some more timely hits," Nelson said. "It seemed like we've left like 15 guys on base (over the last two games), but that's because (Lehi) is a good club and they know how to get out of it."
As mentioned, Spanish Fork clears itself on top of the Region 10 standings with just two games remaining in the regular season in what should be a competitive ending, considering both games will be against second-place Salem Hills.
"This prepares us for the state tournament," Nelson said of his difficult May schedule. "Our (region) is tough and that's why I love it ... it's great preparation for our guys."