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HYRUM — The very first pitch Stetsen Karren threw after entering the game for Smithfield in the bottom of the third was tattooed by Hyrum’s Max Nichols well over the fence in center field for a grand slam.

Indeed, it was a rude entrance to Tuesday’s pivotal Northern Utah League baseball game for the recent Sky View High School graduate but, to his credit, his was phenomenal the rest of the way. Karren struck out 10 and only gave up one run on four hits in five complete innings to help propel the Blue Sox to a 11-8 victory over the Hornets.

“It stung in the moment to give up a grand slam because that’s a big momentum swing the other way, but he was unfazed,” Smithfield manager/player Jordan Hansen said. “He was dealing. He had them off-balance and, yeah, he was just going right at them. That’s a good hitting team ... and he’s got some moxie. You can’t ask for much more from a young guy than to go out there and not care (about the pressure) and just do your thing, and that’s what he did.”

The Blue Sox (6-2) were riding a wave of momentum, having scored seven runs on seven hits and a walk in the top of the third to take a 8-4 lead over their rivals to the south. Greg Madsen came through with a two-run single for Smithfield, while Hansen smacked a two-run double later in the frame.

However, the momentum quickly shifted the other direction when the Hornets (8-2) drew back-to-back-to-back walks with no outs in the home half of the third. Nichols then proceeded to pull Hyrum even at 8-8 with one swing of the bat.

How did Karren regroup so quickly, both mentally and physically?

“I was just telling myself that I’ve just got to be a bulldog and just put my nose in it and just go right at them,” he said. “I hung a pitch over the plate and, you know, he made a great hit out of it, so I just had to (have a short memory) and keep doing my thing.”

Not only did the future Ripon (Wisconsin) College player fan 10, he limited his free passes to four. Karren plunked two Hyrum batters in the third inning after giving up the grand slam, but got out of that jam and only walked two in the final four frames.

“I’m just here to do my job,” Karren said. “Jordan handed me the ball and I was told to go throw strikes, and that’s what I did. I just executed my job and it felt good.”

Smithfield took the lead for good in the top of the fifth on a single by Trent Miller, scoring Brock Rindlisbacher, who led off the inning by lacing a triple to center. The Blue Sox were able to plate a pair of gratifying insurance runs two innings later off standout pitcher Braydon Schiess, who is coming off a solid freshman season for Eastern Arizona College. Ryder Lundahl came through with a run-scoring single, while Taydem Neal belted a RBI double to left-center.

“To have the three-run cushion made it a lot easier for (Karren) to go out and pitch, where he doesn’t have to stress about one pitch,” Hansen said. “If he makes a mistake, he’s fine. And, yeah, he only needed (a one-run lead), but I’m glad that we got the insurance runs. They were big.”

It was a stellar evening at the plate for the Blue Sox, who racked up 16 base knocks, including four of the extra-base variety. Miller led the way with four hits, followed by Rindlisbacher with three and Lundahl and Neal with two apiece. Nine different Smithfield players contributed with a hit.

“I didn’t know we had that many,” Hansen said. “That’s awesome. We’re starting to get there as a team. It’s been a slow start to the year and I think at Logan we had quite a few hits last week, and then to continue that tonight just speaks to the approach that guys are taking (at the plate). When you swing at good pitches to hit, you’re going to have a better average.”

Miller also finished with a pair of runs and RBIs for the Blue Sox, who got a pair of runs and RBIs from Hansen, plus two RBIs and a run from Neal, a run, RBI and walk from Lundahl, and two runs, one hit, two RBIs and two walks from Madsen.

Nichols sparkled offensively for the Hornets as he went 3 for 3 with a walk and the four aforementioned RBIs. Jaxon Burbank was plunked, walked twice, singled and scored twice in his four plate appearances for Hyrum, who got seven strikeouts in three innings on the mound from Schiess.

Jarrett Hunt and Ty Jones contributed with RBI singles as part of Hyrum’s three-run second inning. Wyatt Sorensen chipped in with a pair of runs in the contest for the hosts, who got run-scoring sacrifice flies from Tadon Burbank and Nic Rasmussen.

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.

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