SMITHFIELD — To their credit, a pair of three-run deficits didn’t seem to deter the Wolverines.
Providence came storming back by putting five runs on the scoreboard in the fifth inning en route to a 10-7 victory over the Smithfield Blue Sox in an entertaining Northern Utah League game Wednesday night at Richard V. Hansen Baseball Park.
“I think this team is very scrappy, especially when we fall behind,” Providence left fielder Cooper Kunz said. “We get back up ... and we don’t let one hit (by the other team) ruin the entire game and take all of our momentum away from us. And we scratch and claw and try to find a way to get runs and get back into the game, and tonight we did it.
“I mean, it wasn’t always the prettiest, but we’re always hustling and trying to get that extra base. Ninety feet is huge in the game of baseball. If you can get that much closer to home plate, you can put another run on the board, and that’s a big deal.”
The Wolverines were very patient at the plate in their big fifth inning, and it paid off. Providence plated its five runs on the frame courtesy of four hits, two walks and a sacrifice fly by Dallan Larsen.
The Blue Sox were a bit unlucky when two of their outfielders appeared to lose a Hunter Porritt fly ball in the lights. The ball dropped cleanly in left field, allowing two runs to score and trimming Providence’s deficit to 6-5. The Wolverines took the lead two batters late when Kunz roped a two-run double to left field.
“I think pitch selection is very important, especially when you’re down in a game because you don’t want to give away those outs and you don’t want to get cheated on a bad pitch that you’re too aggressive with,” Kunz said. “You want to wait for something that you can (drive) and maybe get extra bases on, so you can put a lot more pressure on the defense. And I think that we did a good job of being selective on our pitches tonight.”
Kunz had a big night at the plate as the recent Sky View graduate doubled three times, scored twice and drove in two runs. Larsen had three RBIs for the visitors.
The first two innings were highlighted by a trio of towering home runs. Jed Jensen gave the Wolverines a 1-0 lead with a two-out shot over the 345-foot sign in right-center in the top of the first.
Smithfield responded by putting a four-spot on the board in the home half of the frame. Zach Hansen drilled a three-run jack well over the fence in left-center to give the Blue Sox a 4-1 lead.
Providence immediately bounced back on Larsen’s two-run bomb over the fence in left-center in the top of the second.
Chance Randall gave the Blue Sox a 5-3 lead with a two-out RBI single to left in the third inning, and Smithfield increased its advantage to 6-3 on a run-scoring two-bagger by Hansen in the fourth. Hansen went 3 for 4 with four RBIs and a run for the hosts.
Smithfield’s lead would have been even bigger had Providence shortstop Braxton Jensen not robbed Brayden Anderson of a hit in the bottom of the second. Jensen adroitly snared the ball over his shoulder with two outs and a pair of Smithfield runners on base.
The Wolverines made another outstanding defensive play in the fifth frame when Larsen, Providence’s first baseman, showed his athleticism by reaching over the fence to snare a Dawson Barson foul ball.
“It’s huge,” Kunz said. “I mean, those are web gems right there. Braxton running full speed and making an over-the-shoulder basket catch, that’s a very difficult play to pull off, as well as Dallan over here on the fence having to climb it and get over the top. I mean, any time you have a huge defensive play or huge offensive play, momentum swings in your direction and it seems like the ball gets bigger and the ball gets slower when you’re playing defense. It’s kind of a weird thing, but it happens.”
Providence went up 9-6 on a Porritt RBI single in the sixth inning, and had a four-run cushion after scoring on a pitch in the dirt in the seventh.
The Blue Sox pulled one run back on a Scott Madsen groundout in the bottom of the seventh and had the tying run at the plate with two outs. However, Providence southpaw Mckay Smith slammed the door with his second strikeout of the inning. Smith only gave up two runs in four innings of relief on the mound.
Braxton Pond singled twice and walked for the Wolverines, who got a pair of base knocks and three RBIs from Porritt. Jed Jensen also had two hits for NUL regular season champions.
In addition to Hansen, Rhett Nielsen had a trio of hits for the Blue Sox. Nielsen also plated a pair of runs, while Barson doubled and singled for the hosts.