The top two teams in 6A baseball are still on a collision course for a showdown in the final weekend of the high school season.
No. 1 American Fork and No. 2 Pleasant Grove both took care of business in their respective winners bracket games at UVU on Tuesday to move within one win of advancing to the 6A best-of-three championship series.
Pleasant Grove overcame a slow start at the plate but eventually got things going in the later innings to beat No. 3 seed Jordan 6-1.
In the nightcap, American Fork had a great start building an early four-run lead, but it had to hold on late to beat No. 5 Riverton 4-3 as relief pitcher Maddux Madsen got a ground out with the bases loaded to end the game.
Pleasant Grove will try and book its place in the final on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. when it faces the winner of the Jordan-Lone Peak game at 11 a.m.
American Fork, meanwhile, will play at 7 p.m. against the winner of the 1:30 p.m. Bingham-Riverton game.
For Pleasant Grove, for the second straight day it had a masterful pitching performance, as Kyler Lester recorded the complete-game victory.
It started a bit slowly as he gave up four hits in the first inning, but he avoided disaster getting out of a bases-loaded jam with the score just 1-0. After that, he only allowing four more hits and struck out four batters.
“I was probably overthrowing a little bit. I was just trying to find some velo before I tried to find the zone. After I found my zone I could put the velo in there and hit my spots,” said Lester.
Even though Lester settled down after the shaky first inning, his team still trailed 1-0 after four innings as Jordan pitcher Tyler Fitch was in a groove himself.
He didn’t allow a hit through the first four innings as he struck out four batters.
In the fifth though, Pleasant Grove coach Darrin Henry said his players finally started to lay off Fitch’s offspeed pitches out of the zone for some productive at bats.
Sam Haynie recorded Pleasant Grove’s first hit in the fifth inning on a one-out single, with Ty Caldwell following a batter later with a two-out single. Lester followed with a walk to load the bases for sophomore Ryker Schow. He delivered with a clutch two-run single putting the Vikings ahead 2-1.
”That’s a sophomore that’s started for us, and he’s done nothing but come through all year for us, so we love him. He’s a fabulous player. We trust him as much as anybody, coming in as a sophomore onto that stage. He’s not afraid, he just wants to get it done, which I love,” said Henry.
In the sixth, Pleasant Grove put together an impressive two-out rally to effectively put the game away. Conner Bancroft and Schow each delivered two-run singles to stretch the lead to 6-1.
“We never changed our approach, we just kept grinding and getting after them. I knew something good was going to happen, we just have that belief system in our program. These guys didn’t change their approach, they just tried to go up the middle as hard as they could,” said Henry.
In the seventh, Lester set Jordan’s hitters down in order as he only faced 21 batters over the final six innings.
For top seed American Fork, it got things started great, recording four runs on five hits through the first two innings to take the 4-0 lead. Fisher Ingersoll had two hits in those first two innings for the Cavemen.
Riverton made a pitching change after the second inning to Mark Henderson and did a masterful job keeping American Fork off the scoreboard over the next four innings to give his team a chance.
Riverton cut the lead to 4-2 in the fourth inning highlighted by a solo home run by Parker Goff. It added another run in the sixth on an RBI ground out from Owen Olsen. In the seventh, it loaded the bases with two out after two walks and an error, but Madsen got the final batter to ground out as he pitched the final three innings.
“We hung on. We just talked here at the end about having a better mindset. We hit the ball hard, and Riverton is a good ball club, well coached they defended it well. A lot the balls that we struck were at guys,” said American Fork coach Jared Ingersoll.