AMERICAN FORK — During a time where few things are normal, Saturday’s scene at American Fork High School felt like old times.
Fans packed into the bleachers of the Cavemen’s new field, watching play between two of the state’s premier baseball programs — Pleasant Grove and Lone Peak — with the Vikings coming out on top 6-0.
The defending 6A champions looked in prime form throughout, squaring up balls effectively to drive in runs, while exhibiting tight pitches and defensive execution to keep the Knights from crossing the plate.
“That was Pleasant Grove baseball, what you saw today,” said Pleasant Grove coach Darrin Henry, whose teams showcase some of the best play statewide most years.
Surprisingly, it was the Vikings first win during the pool play portion of the Last Chance Tournament. On Friday, Henry’s team suffered a tough loss to Syracuse before opening up Saturday with yet another loss, this time to Copper Hills.
Knowing the circumstances, it made sense that it took three games for the Vikings to find their groove.
“This is the most interesting thing I’ve been a part of,” Henry said. “To not have had one practice...it’s just crazy, because we have great crowds and all these great things going on, but these kids have had no reps. But we grew up today. It was nice.”
Indeed the first time Pleasant Grove took the field together as a team since mid-March was the first game of the tournament, according to Henry. Mindful in abiding by practice restrictions mandated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vikings showed a lot of initial rust.
“We followed the rules to a tee,” Henry said. “We believe in taking our lumps, if that’s what we need to, but this round robin portion is about getting things right.”
Many things went right for the Vikings during Saturday’s win, suggesting possible improved play during next week’s double-elimination championship round.
Leading the effort from the plate for the Vikings was sophomore Tate Lewis, who topped off a 4-run first inning with a 2-RBI double, before smacking through an RBI single to extend the lead to 5-0 in the third.
From the mound it was senior Ernesto Lugo-Canchola pitching five complete innings, leading the shutout effort.
“You come in a little stressed at not seeing a baseball (thrown) in...but I’m so confident now,” Lugo-Canchola said. “I feel like (we) can play anybody anywhere right now.”
Lugo-Canchola is one of seven seniors on this year’s Pleasant Grove team, and like all graduating player he has run the gamut of emotions since the high school sports season was cancelled.
“It’s tough that it’s been taken away from us, but I’m just so glad we get to come back this week,” Lugo-Canchola said. “This is something special for us. We were rusty, but we’re ready again.”
All eight 6A teams will conclude Last Chance Tournament play next week during the double-elimination portion.