MILLVILLE — Lightning delayed the Mountain Crest/Ridgeline baseball matchup for 30 minutes in the bottom of the second, but the Mustangs had already brought the thunder in the top of the inning with a four-run strike, propelling them to a 6-2 win Wednesday afternoon.
That game-defining second inning saw the Mustangs put together four of their eight overall hits with a couple of walks to add more base runners to the mix. Brady Hall and Garrett Thuerer each smacked doubles — Thuerer’s driving Hall home for run number one — and Cooper Murphy sent two players across home plate with a single. Taylor Bitton finished the scoring by hitting Murphy home on a single of his own.
A win could hardly have come at a better time for the slumping Mustangs (13-7, 8-3). MC came into Wednesday having dropped three of its last four games — including a 3-1 loss to these same Riverhawks (7-10, 6-5) on Tuesday — after sweeping the first two region series and sitting atop Region 12 for nearly three weeks. Head coach Steve Hansen said he didn’t feel the team had been slumping, but noted the importance of the win, given the recent stretch of games.
“It’s a big win,” Hansen said. “We’ve been on the losing end of some close games (recently) but today we came out. We swung the bats real well, put some runs up. Caleb Archibald threw great on the mound. It was a good all around ballgame for us.”
Mountain Crest’s offense also got a timely boost. Outside of an outlying 10-run outburst against Green Canyon last Friday, the Mustangs had tallied just two runs on five hits since April 13, negating the fact that they also held opponents to 2.3 runs on average in those same games.
“Today we just relaxed a lot more than we have been,” said Archibald, who had two hits on the day for MC and only gave up three hits in his complete-game performance on the mound. “We changed our approach at the plate a lot, shortened up and put the ball in play when needed.”
Hansen also pointed out how relaxed his guys played and how that contributed to a better day at the plate.
“When you’re relaxed, good things are going to happen,” Hansen said. “And the players came out and were ready to play today, and that’s what they did.”
Ridgeline had its four-game win streak snapped. And now through two games of the current series, the Riverhawks have scored a total of five runs in a crucial region series. Wednesday’s low run total was truncated by poor hitting at the wrong times.
“We’ve got to hit better,” Ridgeline head coach Paul Bowler said. “Had way too many pop-ups, bailed the pitcher out a few times and he pitched fine, but we can’t give him help either by swinging early in counts, swinging at bad pitches.”
With the series now tied at one game apiece, both sides will be vying for the clinching win for slightly different reasons. The Mustangs will seek an end to the short stint of region struggles and the Riverhawks will look to validate their recent run of form that dug them out of a slow start to their region schedule.
“You dig yourself in a hole, first thing you gotta do is stop digging and start climbing,” said Bowler, whose team got doubles from Jack Burr and Mason Bowler. “We’ve been climbing, we just slipped back a step and hopefully we can take two steps forward on Friday.”
“It’s big to take two out of three this series,” Hansen said. “Everybody always says one game at a time, but it is big. We’ve got to come out and play well.”
The other two Region 12 games scheduled for Wednesday were not completed due to inclement weather. Logan and Bear River made it through two innings with the Bears leading 3-0 before the game was suspended. The two teams will resume play from the point of suspended play Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at Logan.
Sky View and Green Canyon began, but play was suspended in the first inning. The game will be restarted completely as part of a doubleheader at Green Canyon Thursday, with the first game starting at 3 p.m.
Green Canyon’s Payton Jones was named Pitcher of the Week, while Bear River’s Wyatt Roholt was tabbed the Hitter of the Week. Every week, the Region 12 coaches select each of these awards.
Jones shined on the mound in Green Canyon’s 2-0 victory over Mountain Crest last Wednesday. The senior only allowed two hits — both singles — in six full innings, struck out three and walked three.
Roholt was unstoppable at the plate in Bear River’s three-game sweep of Sky View. Roholt went 14 of 18 for a batting average of .777 and drove in three runs. He tripled and doubled in the series.
HJ sports writer Jason Turner contributed to this report