The Trappers gamely battled back from deficits of 3-0 and 4-1, but it wasn’t quite enough on Day 1 of the eight-team Utah State American Legion tournament.
Salem Hills made a few crucial defensive plays en route to holding off Blacksmith Fork, 7-6, Friday at Gates Field in Kearns. North Cache, the other local team that qualified for the tourney, was defeated 6-3 by defending champion St. George later in the day.
The Trappers nearly pulled even at 7-all in the bottom of the sixth, but Taylor Bitton was gunned out at home while trying to tag up on a Caleb Archibald fly ball to right field.
“We did hit the ball well,” Blacksmith Fork head coach Stephen Hansen said. “(Salem Hills’) second baseman made two really good plays that kept us from scoring. And then also we hit a ball straight back to their pitch, a line drive that he caught, with guys on second and third (base), so we just didn’t get the breaks we needed.”
Blacksmith Fork never took the lead, but knotted things up at 4-4 after putting a three-spot on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth. The Trappers scored their first run of the frame on a Garrett Theurer infield single, and then Bitton came through with a two-run single.
Salem Hills, the No. 2 seed from the South Region, plated a pair of runs in the fifth inning to take a 6-4 lead. The Trappers, the third seed from the North Region, responded with a RBI double by Brady Hall to pare their deficit to 6-5 in the home half of the frame.
Both teams scored once in the sixth inning. The Trappers pulled to within 7-6 on a Lance Welch single.
Blacksmith Fork fell behind 3-0 before Tadon Burbank singled in the designated hosts’ first run of the game. The Trappers then proceeded to claw their way back in the contest.
“That’s one thing we’ve really been working on too is just playing the whole game ... and playing the game and not the score, and keep playing hard,” Hansen said. “And that’s what we did and that’s what we’ve been doing, so I believe we got better today because of that.”
Seven different Trappers had one base knock, while Hall doubled and singled. Archibald and Cooper Murphy plated a pair of runs apiece for Blacksmith Fork, which qualified for this tournament for the first time since 2015.
“We’ve put in a long, hard summer and the players have just really bought in, and we’re getting better as a team and as a program,” Hansen said. “And just playing these types of games is going to make us even better, and that’s what we’re after. We’re trying to prepare for the 2019 (high school) season and I believe we’ve gotten better throughout the summer.”
Jordan Matthews went 3 for 4 for the Skyhawks, while Krayden Basham doubled twice and drove in a pair of runs.
Blacksmith Fork will now square off against Lone Peak, the top seed from the North, in an elimination game Saturday at noon at Skyline High School.
Sentinels 6, Titans 3
A slow start proved to be too much for North Cache, the No. 2 seed from the North, to overcome. St. George, the third seed from the South, jumped out to a 5-0 lead after two innings.
“They came out and they were hitting,” North Cache head coach Todd Phillips said. “We had the jitters, you could see a little bit, but we didn’t really commit any mental errors or anything because of nervousness. We had one physical error and they just capitalized. You know, (pitcher) Eric (Carter) didn’t have his change-up early on and once he found his change-up in that third, fourth inning, you started to see a different result for him on the mound. He pitched well the rest of the game.”
“... It’s a very talented team. I mean, they’re pulling from four St. George high schools and four of their players are returning college players and just really talented, and you can’t really get behind a team like that.”
To their credit, the Titans showed some resolve and made the Sentinels sweat it out. In fact, North Cache had the tying run at the plate in the top of the seventh.
“In the fifth and sixth innings, we didn’t get any runs ... but we started squaring up balls,” Phillips said. “I mean, we were just hitting them right at their guys, but it was nice to see that happening and for us to be able to come back and get those two runs in the top of the seventh was great to see from my boys. I was proud of how they played today. It was just two good teams battling it out and somebody’s got to lose.”
The Titans plated their first run on a RBI double by Carter in the third inning. North Cache scored twice in the seventh frame — the first on double by Noah Ferrin and the second on a Ryder Lundahl single. Lundahl also scored the team’s first run of the contest.
“This summer we’ve got three graduated seniors that are playing with us, but our younger guys have really stepped up,” Phillips said. “Noah Ferrin ... he’s come up with big hits, like that double he got in the top of the seventh, a couple of times throughout the summer. So, it’s been good to see as a coach the younger guys stepping up too.”
Carter, one of those graduated players, pitched all six innings for the Titans. He allowed five earned runs on six hits, struck out four and issued five free passes. Recent Sky View graduate Cooper Kunz doubled for North Cache.
Alec Flemetakis finished with two RBIs and runs for the Sentinels, who won the South regular season title but finished third in the state qualifying tournament. Dawson Staheli chipped in with two runs and a RBI.
North Cache will now play Syracuse, the fourth seed from the North, in an elimination game Saturday at 3 p.m. at Skyline.
Should the Titans and Trappers prevail, they will play again Monday at Salt Lake Community College.