The Mavericks couldn’t have scripted a much better opener at the American Legion state tournament.
Neither could have Cache Valley’s other two baseball programs in the 16-team tourney.
Ridgeline, the No. 5 seed, put together a well-rounded performance in its 9-1 triumph over No. 12 American Leadership Academy on Friday morning at Lone Peak High School. Up next for the Mavericks is a showdown against No. 4 Helper — a 12-2 victor over No. 13 Washington — on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the same venue.
In the same side of the bracket, the top-seeded Cache Valley Crew only needed six innings to dispatch of No. 16 Alta by a 17-7 scoreline, while on the other side of the bracket, No. 7 Blacksmith Fork (Mountain Crest) rolled to a 9-2 victory over No. 10 Payson.
“Both Davis (Fullmer) and Max (Major) threw well with six combined strikeouts and no walks,” Ridgeline assistant coach Britton Coil said. “Our defense made some good plays throughout the game, including a couple inning-ending double plays, and once our bats got going we were able to string together multiple hits. It was a solid performance by everyone and a good way to start the tournament.”
The first six batters in Ridgeline’s lineup gave ALA’s pitching staff fits as those athletes teamed up for 11 hits, eight runs, eight RBIs and four free passes. Trey Purser led the charge with one run, a trio of base knocks and a pair of RBIs.
The Mavericks (18-10-1) took control with five runs in the bottom of the fourth — all with two outs — increasing their advantage to 7-0. Ridgeline strung together four straight hits in the fourth, highlighted by a two-run single by Fullmer and a run-scoring double by Easton Dahlke.
Carter Gill and Jaxen Hollingworth also contributed with run-scoring extra base hits for the Mavericks, who got one run, two hits, one RBI and one walk from Marshall Hansen. Hollingworth scored twice, as did Gill, who chipped in with two hits.
Fullmer limited the Eagles to a pair of hits in three and two-third innings on the mound. He fanned three, as did Major. Major went the rest of the way for Ridgeline, scattered five hits and allowed one run. Major also picked off a would-be base stealer to end the top of the sixth.
Ridgeline right field Kadeyn Miller tracked down a fly ball in the second frame and doubled up the base runner at first for the third out. Indeed, it was that kind of game for the Mavericks, who only struck out twice.
Alta jumped out to a 4-1 lead over Cache Valley after two innings, but the Crew exploded for 16 runs from the fourth through sixth frames to win going away. Up next for Cache Valley is No. 8 Lone Peak, which beat No. 9 Corner Canyon, 9-4. The two teams will square off Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Lone Peak.
Former Sky View star Taydem Neal had a big game for the Crew, who are comprised primarily of recent Mountain Crest graduates. Neal doubled, singled twice, scored twice and drove in five runs.
Lance Welch contributed with two runs, three base knocks and four RBIs — two on a home run over the fence in right in the bottom of the sixth — for Cache Valley, which got four runs, two hits, one RBI and two walks from Chase Carter and three runs, one hit and one RBI from Braydon Schiess, who was also plunked three times.
Ethan Tingey also doubled for the Crew, while Jaden Jones chipped in with a pair of hits and also fared well on the mound. Jones, who was one out away from pitching five complete innings, held Alta to a pair of hits, fanned three and issued six free passes.
Welch finished the game on the bump for the Crew and retired all four batters he faced — the first three via strikeout.
“The Cache Valley Crew opened the game a little bit slow against a younger, but determined Alta team,” Crew coach Sandor Schiess said. “After only a couple hits and three errors for the first two innings, we opened up the game and started hitting the ball very well. Some huge hits from Taydem Neal, who went three for four, a couple key hits from Jaden Jones, a home run from Lance Welch, and then Braydon and Preston (Jones) both getting hit by a pitch three times apiece was enough to let us open up a significant lead.”
Unlike Cache Valley, Blacksmith Fork (17-9-1) avoided a slow start in its showdown with Payson. The Trappers scored twice in the bottom of the first and never trailed, although the Lions were only behind by one run through four complete.
Blacksmith Fork then proceeded to manufacture three runs in the home half of the fifth, and then got an inside-the-park grand slam from Nathan Rowley one inning later to slam the door. Additionally, Rowley singled in two of his other at-bats and came through with three runs and five RBIs for his team.
Kaden Deeter added one run, one hit, one RBI and two walks for the Trappers, who got two runs from Cole Jones. Blacksmith Fork’s JC Jones drew a pair of bases on balls and was plunked once.
Andrew Nielsen went the distance on the mound for Blacksmith, scattered eight hits, fanned 11 and only walked one. Nielsen sat down two Payson batters in each of the first four frames.
“It was a good win for us and we did what we needed to do,” BF head coach Trace Hansen said. “It was big for us to come out and score in the first inning. Andrew pitched really good and we played good defense behind him. We manufactured some runs when needed. Nathan Rowley had a good game. It was good to see him come up with some clutch hits.”
Blacksmith Fork will now play No. 2 Herriman on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Lone Peak. Herriman blew out No. 15 Viewmont, 14-2.