It wasn’t the ending the Trappers were hoping for, but they left no doubt the future of Mountain Crest’s baseball program is bright.
Blacksmith Fork pulled away from Herriman in the first of its two elimination games at the Utah State Legion Championship on Tuesday at Gates Field in Kearns. The Trappers plated five runs in the top of the fifth en route to a 7-1 victory.
Unfortunately for the Trappers, they were bounced from the tournament in nailbiting fashion later in the day, 3-2, by the Washington Sentinels. Blacksmith Fork lost both of its games at the tourney by one run and ended up placing fourth out of 16 teams.
“I believe we have a bright future,” Blacksmith Fork/Mountain Crest head coach Stephen Hansen said. “After a couple of hard seasons, we are back to playing MC baseball, and that is a credit to the hard work and dedication of the players we have in our program. We have a lot of expectations.”
Indeed, Mountain Crest enjoyed a resurgence this past spring as it shared the Region 12 title with Bear River, but claimed the region’s top seed in the 4A State Championships because it swept the Bears during the regular season. Brady Hall was the only senior on that Mustang squad.
Momentum carried over into the summer as Blacksmith Fork, Mountain Crest’s American Legion program, won 15 straight games during one stretch. The Trappers’ four loses this summer were decided by a grand total of six runs — three by a single run. Blacksmith Fork (25-4) shut out 11 opponents this season and limited seven more to one run.
Lance Welch made sure the Trappers earned the opportunity to play a pair of games Tuesday. The Mountain Crest junior-to-be stymied Herriman on the mound and also shined at the plate.
Welch pitched six complete innings and limited Herriman to one run on five hits. No. 22 struck out six and issued a trio of free passes. Welch aided his own cause by smacking a triple and double, and he scored a pair of runs.
“Lance pitched another great game,” Hansen said. “He is always around the zone and has great composure. He works very hard at it to be good. (He’s) always doing the little things to get better. He is going to keep getting better and will turn into something special here at MC.”
The Trappers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second when Welch belted a lead-off triple and scored on a passed ball. Blacksmith Fork stranded runners on second and third in the inning.
Blacksmith Fork doubled its lead one inning later on a RBI single by Caden Jones, scoring Hayden Simper, who led off the frame with a double.
Herriman pared its deficit in half in the bottom of the fifth on a RBI double by Braxton Ortiz. The Trappers then proceeded to slam the door by putting a five-spot on the scoreboard in the seventh inning.
Blacksmith Fork scored its five runs on four base knocks, three walks, one hit batsman and a wild pitch. The Trappers had two timely hits in the inning — a RBI double by Welch and a two-run single by Dane Folkman.
Blacksmith Fork got another nice performance from lead-off batter Braydon Schiess, who went 3 for 4 with one run. Simper doubled, singled and crossed home plate twice for the Trappers, who racked up 12 hits. Jones singled twice and chipped in with a run and RBI.
The Trappers were oh so close to staving off elimination once again in their second contest of the afternoon. On two occasions, Blacksmith Fork left the bases juiced against Washington — the first time when it grounded into an inning-ending double play. The Trappers also grounded into a double play in the seventh and final frame.
“We had our chances, but hit it hard right at them,” Hansen said. “They turned a couple double plays because we hit the ball hard at them.”
The Sentinels scored two of their runs in the top of the first — both on a double by Michael Martinez. Blacksmith Fork pitcher Jaden Jones gave up three hits in the first inning but, to his credit, settled down and limited Washington to zero runs on three base knocks before giving way to reliever Cooper Murphy in the seventh frame.
Jaden Jones struck out five, walked two and plunked one.
“Very proud of Jaden and the way he threw,” said Hansen, whose team was without Tadon Burbank, the reigning co-Region 12 MVP, in all of its games this week. “He has been throwing great for us all year at the lower level, and he got a chance at the upper level and took advantage of it.”
The Trappers trimmed their deficit to 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth courtesy of a RBI single by Murphy, scoring Welch. Blacksmith Fork pulled even at 2-2 in the sixth inning when Ian McArthur came through with a two-out single to right field, scoring Murphy.
McArthur finished with a pair of hits for the Trappers, who had six other players single once. Murphy singled and walked twice, in addition to his run and RBI.