SMITHFIELD — The Blue Sox rebounded from a heartbreaking loss 8-4 Monday with a 12-1 drubbing of Providence on Tuesday to run-rule the Wolverines in five innings at Richard V. Hansen field.
Smithfield jumped out to an early lead, the same thing they did Monday before Providence came storming back in the seventh with six runs in the final frame. The difference Tuesday was the Blue Sox’s initial jump was bigger and better, and came with a side of stellar defense.
“Proud of the way the guys bounced back after the gut-punch last night,” Smithfield manager Jordan Hansen. “It would have been nice just to take care of business yesterday, but it’s the way it goes sometimes. Tonight we had a sour taste in our mouth and just made sure we weren’t going to have a collapse tonight.”
Both teams went scoreless in the first inning, but in the second Smithfield made its move. Chase Mercado scored on a fielder’s choice to open the scoring and two at-bats later, Ryder Lundahl smacked the ball deep over the left-center field for a three-run home run.
Providence had several chances to stop the bleeding in the second, but couldn’t manage to execute. Two errors by the Wolverines put men on base and, more importantly, extended the inning to allow Smithfield to keep piling on.
Even a calculated move by the Providence manager Jesse Jensen led almost directly to more runs for the Blue Sox. In the heart of the scoring run with just one out recorded, Jensen intentionally walked Zach Hansen with runners already on second and third base. The decision loaded the based but smartly opened up a chance for the Wolverines to get a double play and escape the inning with only five runs allowed.
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Mercado took the opportunity to send a line drive into left field for a bases-clearing double.
Only after nine runners crossed home plate via seven hits for the Blue Sox did Providence finally get the third out. It proved little comfort since the Wolverines scored once in the top of the third and then allowed the requisite runs in the bottom of the third and fourth inning to fulfill the requirements for a mercy rule ending.
The Blue Sox finished with nine hits off the bats of eight different players. Mercado led the team as the only player with multiple hits. He went 2 for 3 with three RBIs — all on the second-inning double — and scored both times he made it on base.
“Hitting’s contagious,” coach Hansen said. “One guy starts it and it’s just next man up, and it snowballs in a hurry.”
Part of Smithfield’s dominance came from, in the less than 24 hours between losing in Providence and the first pitch on Tuesday, finding a way to get hits and move runners against pitcher Jake Dygert. On Monday, Dygert entered the game as a reliever and shut out Smithfield in three innings pitched, allowing one hit and striking out five to pick up the win.
Dygert couldn’t have had a more opposite encore performance in his starting role Tuesday, giving up nine runs, seven hits, three walks and fanning only one batter.
“We’d seen him a couple times, especially last night. That kind of helped prepare us for today, seeing what he had last night,” Mercado said. “He’s a good pitcher, he’s got good stuff. We just got the best of him tonight.”
Defensively, the Blue Sox flipped the script from the day before, going from committing five errors to just one. Taking care of business on infield plays helped Wyatt Barrus in his complete, one-hit performance on the night.
“Our pitchers really trust out defense and I think that’s a positive,” Mercado said. “Last night we had a couple iffy plays, couple errors that kind of cost us. But we bounced back today, made the plays, got the outs and won the game.”
The series will move back to Providence for the decisive game, a great sign for the Wolverines. So far in this year’s Northern Utah League playoffs, no team has gone on the road and won. It’ll be a tall mountain for the Blue Sox to climb and coach Hansen knows it.
“(In) this league it’s tough to win on the road,” Hansen said. “Every park is just different in its own way and for whatever reason it’s just hard to win in Providence.”
Smithfield definitely came the closest to winning in Providence, taking a 4-2 lead into the seventh on Monday, but the Wolverines have hit the ball much better on their diamond. In three NUL playoff games, they’ve averaged 9.7 runs at Max A. Johnson Memorial Field. Conversely, the Blue Sox have scored just six runs in two road games in the playoffs.