No. 3 Riverton and No. 5 American Fork advanced to the final game of bracket play in their respective fields Tuesday evening at BYU. The Silverwolves’ 5-2 win over No. 2 Bingham was followed by a 5-2 Cavemen victory over No. 9 Farmington.
Riverton and Bingham met earlier this month, Tuesday’s matchup marking the fourth contest between the two Region 3 schools. Riverton went 1-2 against Bingham in the three previous meetings, the Miners winning the region over the second place Silverwolves.
“We know their players. They know our players,” Riverton head coach Jay Applegate said about his team’s familiarity with Bingham. “I think it comes down to execution.”
Silverwolves sophomore pitcher Cooper Hansen executed at a high level, celebrating his 17th birthday Tuesday by throwing all seven innings for Riverton. He finished the day with six strikeouts and a birthday to remember.
“He’s a big time pitcher,” Applegate said. “He’s a flat out competitor. … Nothing really fazes him. I think that’s just because he’s been in so many big games and showcases. He knows how to feel comfortable in an uncomfortable situation.”
Hansen found himself in an uncomfortable situation on a couple different occasions. After giving up two hits to start the fourth, the sophomore pitcher worked his way out of it, finishing the inning with two straight strikeouts and preserving the Silverwolves’ one point lead. Hansen faced a nearly identical situation in the sixth, but again came out of the inning unscathed.
When asked what it took to get out of those jams, Hansen said, “Just working through the counts. Just trying to stay strong and throw pitches in the zone.”
The southpaw was in a zone, giving up just one run in the first and a second in the seventh. “I had a feeling before the game it was just going to be a fun day,” he said.
For Riverton, it was just that as the Silverwolves defeated the school that eliminated them from the tournament a season ago, and inched within one game of playing for a state championship.
American Fork did the same, playing in the final game of the day against Farmington. The Cavemen scored all five of their runs in the fourth to take a 5-0 lead. The inning was highlighted by junior catcher Josh Rojas’ second home run in two days. Rojas’ three run blast over the center field fence proved to be the difference in the game as American Fork won by three.
The Cavemen’s five runs tie their lowest point total this month; however a strong defensive showing kept the Phoenix off the board through the first six innings. The defending champions held their opponent hitless through the first four innings, putting Farmington one loss away from going home.
American Fork awaits the result of an elimination game between Farmington and No. 1 Fremont tomorrow afternoon. The winner will play the Cavemen Wednesday at 7 p.m.
In the other bracket, Bingham and No. 7 Pleasant Grove will look to keep their seasons alive when they face off in a Wednesday morning showdown for the right to play Riverton that afternoon at 4:30 p.m.