PROVIDENCE — The Wolverines are champions of the NUL once again, completing the team’s latest ascension to the top with a 5-4 victory over Smithfield for a 2-1 win in the Northern Utah League championship series.
Shawn Triplett went the distance on the mound for Providence to compliment his complete performance in a Game 3 win over Hyrum last Saturday. The soon-to-be Blue Mountain Community College sophomore struck out six batters and made the Blue Sox work for every single one of the six hits they managed.
Smithfield were never able to string together hits as they did in both Game 1 and Game 2. Such was Triplett’s performance that even when the Blue Sox appeared to be closing in on the Wolverines’ lead late, manager Jesse Jensen didn’t fret.
“I had pitching,” Jensen said regarding his confidence in his squad late in the game. “Shawn has been our best guy all season. We basically had our best on the mound when it mattered and that’s the way we planned it to be.”
Jensen’s planning dated back no later than Tuesday when Providence found itself being run-ruled by the Blue Sox, but factored into his bullpen choices the entire playoffs. And when it mattered most, the Wolverines were well stocked with available pitchers.
“We did a really good job of managing out pitching,” Jensen said. “We had both Spenser (Triplett) and Cooper (Kunz) that hadn’t thrown yet in the series. Yesterday we had lost and we made a conscious decision that if we’re going to lose we don’t want to burn any pitching as well. So we kept our best for today. I had three guys that could really throw today.”
Smithfield, on the other hand, had a more spent bullpen. Cody Godfrey and Wyatt Barrus had already thrown on Monday and Tuesday, with good performances for both (outside of one inning on Godfrey’s part). The former entered Wednesday’s contest in the third inning to relieve Mitch Coughlin, but the damage was already done.
Godfrey held the Wolverines to zero runs on two hits, but the hitting simply never caught on for the visitors at Max L. Johnson Memorial Field.
Even with a deep cast of pitchers, Providence were reliant on Triplett to perform against a Smithfield side quite capable of getting red-hot at the plate. The pressure hardly fazed Triplett, though. Almost the opposite if his postgame comments are any indication.
“I love these types of games,” Triplett said. “I didn’t have a very good spring, so it was nice to come out here.”
It wasn’t just Triplett, though, who excelled in the field for Providence. Jaren Hales was tested at shortstop repeatedly by the Blue Sox, but pulled through in a huge way with both his glove and his arm, slinging accurate throws into the mitt of first baseman Jake Andersen. Hales assisted on five putouts on the night.
In the sixth inning, he fielded three straight ground balls to help put the Blue Sox down in order at a crucial moment in the game.
“Jaren Hales had a heck of a day at shortstop,” Jensen said. “He made a couple of plays that were just unbelievable.”
Providence’s infield shone brightly all-around despite two errors in the game. When Smithfield got on base, the Wolverines were quick to pounce on chances to choke out scoring chances, recording three double plays.
“That ended up getting me out of three innings,” Triplett said of the double plays. “It was really big by (the defense), clutch plays. (Hales) played an amazing shortstop tonight, helped me out tonight.”
With all the solid defense from both teams, the lone shining — and ultimately decisive — moment of offense came in the bottom of the second. Providence homered twice in the span of four batters. First, former All-American center fielder Mitch Berryhill cleared the raised right field wall for a two-run shot, then Jack Burr sent a two-run blast over the left field fence.
Berryhill, who was not present in the series until Game 3, injected the Wolverines with considerable energy and talent.
“I can’t say enough about (Berryhill),” Jensen said. “He’s going to go down in Northern Utah League history as one of the best players ever. He’s unbelievable.”
Jensen also said Berryhill is “our leader in the outfield. He’s an emotional leader. He really helps get the guys up, everybody loves playing with him.”
With the win Wednesday, the Wolverines have now one 11 of the last 15 NUL titles. But this year sticks out to Jensen out of any of those 11 championship teams.
“Of all the years we’ve (won), this is probably my proudest team,” Jensen said. “It’s been a tough year, there’s been a lot of adversity. I’ve never been prouder of a team than I am this year. We had a lot of adversity and the guys banded together. To be honest, we’ve had other teams (at Providence) that were more talented than this team, but no team that’s had more heart than this team.”