It’s rare when undefeated baseball teams square off in May, so naturally the hype surrounding the opening game of No. 2 Pleasant Grove vs. No. 1 American Fork on Tuesday was sky high. The bleachers were packed behind home plate, with fans packed up and down both baselines.
While the energy of every pitch and out was palpable in the first couple innings, by the third inning the showdown had become a one-sided affair with all the cheering coming from the visiting third base dugout.
American Fork scored four runs in the third inning, three in the fourth and three more in the fifth, and with Dalton Smith painting the corners from the mound those 10 runs were enough for the mercy rule to kick in as American Fork rolled to the 10-0 victory to improve to 19-0 on the season.
“It was fun, we were all excited for this game, but we were focused also. We were ready to play these guys. We wanted good competition,” said American Fork No. 9 hitter Dax Newman who went 3 for 3 with a double and home run.
All nine American Fork hitters recorded a base hit, even more impressive when you consider they were all condensed in the third, fourth and fifth inning.
Most of American Fork’s hits in the third and fourth innings were singles, but they added up to a couple of big innings that gave Smith plenty of run support.
Smith only allowed two hits and struck out four as Pleasant Grove only had one runner reach second base.
“Dalton Smith on the bump is just an incredible leader, super impressed by his composure out there. We made some good plays behind them,” said American Fork coach Jared Ingersoll. “Just throws strikes, doesn’t beat himself, he’s quick to the plate, holds runners well, mixes his pitches well, trusts his defense, gets punch outs when we needs them. Just super impressed with the way he continues to grow as a pitcher.”
Smith improved to 7-0 with the victory.
Newman said he and his teammates have been anxious to play American Fork since the 2021 schedule was first announced months before the season.
It had the makings of a pitcher’s duel early on as both Smith and Pleasant Grove pitcher Kyler Lester struck out two batters in the opening two innings.
Things quickly started to change in the third inning as Easton Whittaker and Newman opened with back-to-back singles. Two batters, later Fisher Ingersoll opened the scoring with an RBI single, and after a Pleasant Grove error allowed the Cavemen to push the lead to 2-0, Kaden Carpenter and Josh Rojas ripped back-to-back singles again stretching lead to 4-0.
In the fourth, Newman ripped a two-run homer over the left field wall, helping to push the lead to 7-0. In the fifth, after Whittaker’s two-run double pushed the lead to 9-0, Newman doubled off the top of the wall and then scored one batter later on an RBI single by lead-off hitter Ryder Robinson.
American Fork’s No. 7, 8 and 9 hitters of Easton Welling, Whittaker and Newman went a combined 7 of 9 with four RBI.
“(Newman’s) been having better at bats, he’s worked through some things in the cages and it was good to have some production out of that back lineup to where our guys in the front of the lineup have guys on base,” said coach Ingersoll.
American Fork’s coach said the team will enjoy the win for one night, and then get in a good practice Wednesday before two more games against Pleasant Grove on Thursday and Friday.
Pleasant Grove, now 19-1 on the season, will look to have more productive at bats on Thursday to try and even the series.