Missed opportunities early on loomed large for a baseball team comprised entirely of recent Mountain Crest and Ridgeline graduates.
The Cache Valley Sox were unable to add to their 3-1 lead, despite having runners on the corners with no outs in the bottom of the third, and Lone Peak rallied for a 7-4 victory in an elimination game in the Utah U19 Legion State Championships on Wednesday evening at Pleasant Grove High School.
Top-seeded Cache Valley finished third at the tournament, which began with 35 teams. It was a difficult ending to a very successful season for the Sox, who went 26-4 against American Legion opponents.
“It’s truly been a privilege coaching this group of young men this summer,” CV coach Alex Hansen said. “Top to bottom, an amazing group of guys. It hurts bad that things didn’t end as we would have liked, but it doesn’t take away from an amazing summer of baseball these guys played. I wish them well as they move to their next stages of life and will always look back at this summer with tons of fond memories.
“I would also like to thank Shane Simper and Shawn Triplett for all their coaching help this summer. Thanks to a team that I consider a family now.”
Cache Valley was in a positon to potentially bury third-seeded Lone Peak in an early hole as Tadon Burbank led off the bottom of the third with a double, and Kade Hansen promptly singled. Tim Woozley replaced starting pitcher Josh Heaton and, to his credit, was able to get the Misfits out of what could have been a game-changing jam.
Lone Peak built off that momentum by scoring a trio of runs — all with two outs — in the top of the fourth to take a 4-3 advantage. The Misfits manufactured those runs on four walks, one hit batsman, one hit and one Cache Valley error.
Lone Peak showcased a lot of patience and resiliency at the plate Wednesday. On several occasions, the Misfits fouled off pitches to stay alive, and they ended up walking eight times and getting plunked on three other occasions.
The Sox pulled knotted things up at 4-4 in the home half of the fourth on a RBI single by Daxton Purser, scoring Austin Pond. The Misfits took the lead for good with a run in the sixth inning, and added two insurance runs in the seventh.
Both teams scored in the opening frame. Hayden Simper smacked a lead-off double for the Sox in the bottom of the first and crossed home plate on a sacrifice fly to center field by Caleb Archibald. Cache Valley ended up stranding a pair of base runners in that inning, plus two more in the fourth.
The Sox plated two more runs in the third frame to take their aforementioned 3-1 lead. Cooper Murphy scored on a Simper groundout, and Cache Valley’s lead-off batter came home on a two-out single by Archibald.
The Sox roughed up Heaton a bit as they racked up six base knocks — two of them doubles — before he left the mound with zero outs in the bottom of the third. Fortunately for the Misfits, they received a huge lift from Woozley and Chipper Beck, who limited Cache Valley to one hit the rest of the way.
Archibald contributed with two RBIs and a hit for the Sox, who got two runs and a hit from Simper, and two hits and one RBI from Purser.
As for the Misfits, they won their fifth straight elimination game after dropping a 5-4 heartbreaker to Farmington last Friday. Lone Peak must defeat No. 14 Farmington twice on Thursday to claim the state title.
A huge effort at the plate by Purser wasn’t enough for Cache Valley, which saw its 10-game winning streak against American Legion opponents come to an end against Farmington by a 7-5 score. Purser went 4 for 4 with a home run, double and two singles, and he drove in three runs and scored twice.
The Sox were trailing 7-2 when Purser deposited a three-run bomb over the fence in right field in the bottom of the sixth. Cache Valley’s other five hits were recorded by five different players.
The Phoenix (25-4) were clinging to a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth when they exploded for four runs — all with two outs. In fact, Farmington’s fourth-inning surge started with two outs and no runners on base.
Cache Valley scored its first run in the bottom of the fourth when Tadon Burbank tagged up on a sacrifice fly to center field by Murphy. The Sox manufactured another run one inning later when Purser scored on a sac fly to left by Kyler Hansen.
Cache Valley left the bases loaded in the third inning.
Both teams finished with nine base knocks in Tuesday’s showdown. The biggest difference is the Phoenix walked seven times and another one of their batters was hit by a pitch, while a trio of Farmington pitchers only issued four free passes.