SMITHFIELD — Thursday’s matchup on the diamond between Sky View and Ridgeline shared a couple of eerie similarities with their contest on Wednesday with one key exception: Sky View made (more) winning plays on its way to a 6-3 victory.
In the bottom of the first inning, the Bobcats (5-16, 3-11) scored their first run on a dropped pitch from Riverhawks catcher Mason Bowler — shades of the first SV run Wednesday, which came via a hit by pitch walk with the bases loaded. Directly after this play was where one of the primary differences came.
Instead of an inning-ending strikeout with the bases loaded like last game, Sky View got a two-RBI single from Rhett Draper to increase the cushion to three runs before Ridgeline (10-11, 8-6) retired the side with a strikeout and fly out.
The Riverhawks still put together a two-run response, just as they did for the Bobcats’ one-run first inning in the game prior. But this time, it came later (the fourth inning instead of the second) and it didn’t carry the same sting since Ridgeline failed to take the lead.
What did sting was the moment the Riverhawks finally did manage to tie the game. Up one run in the top of the fifth inning, the Bobcats had a clear chance to change their fortunes surrounding close contests — SV has lost seven games to date by two or fewer runs, with zero corresponding victories — but committed a nearly disastrous error.
With two outs, Ridgeline’s Dax Purser hit a pop fly into short left field and Parker Murdock tracked the ball perfectly to its landing spot, but flubbed the catch. That error not only extended the inning, but Kade Hansen made it across home on that very play. It almost ended even worse as the Riverhawks loaded the bases a few plays later, but Draper took control from the mound and fanned Ptobias Takis to put a cap on disaster.
For Sky View head coach Todd Phillips, it wasn’t easy to watch.
“For me as a coach (in that moment) it was like ‘how can we keep doing this’ kind of feeling,” he said.
Murdock especially took the mistake hard as someone who, in Phillips’ words, has “struggled the last couple weeks” and takes his shortcomings personally.
“I really wanted to redeem myself after that,” Murdock said.
The outfielder got that very chance in the bottom of the sixth inning. With runners on first and second, Murdock stepped up to the plate with a self-affirming message to himself: “I’ve got to redeem myself after that drop. I’ll just put it in play and do the best I can.”
Those were the words Murdock said went through his mind just before he belted a line drive into deep right field for an RBI double that set up two more runs later that same inning. As Murdock’s rocket sailed over the right fielder’s head, past mistakes melted away in the excitement of that moment.
“I was so happy,” Murdock said. “(My teammates) going crazy in the dugout got me even more hyped, so I’m out on second jumping and being excited.”
Phillips said his team has been working in practice to “do whatever it takes” to win games, which appears to be working since SV now has two wins in its last three games — the team’s best stretch of games since back-to-back wins in mid-March.
“They’ve just been responding and having fun still, even though the season has not been what we wanted it to be,” Phillips said. “They’re still just having fun and wanting to go out the right way.”
While the Bobcats are putting together some of their best baseball of the season in a time where it doesn’t really matter for them, the Riverhawks have struggled a bit right after they gave themselves an outside chance to capture a region title. A close 2-1 win and a three-run loss to the Bobcats haven’t sat well with Riverhawks head coach Paul Bowler, and he didn’t mince words following the game.
“Horrible baseball,” Bowler said. “Gotta have better at-bats, gotta have some kind of approach when you go up to the plate. Just look like they forgot everything they’ve learned today.”
The two sides will face each other once more for a game without stakes as nothing either team does will impact Region 12 playoff seedings. Ridgeline is looked into the region’s fourth and final playoff bid.
BEARS 8, WOLVES 7
Bear River just about slammed the door on Green Canyon’s region title hopes with a second straight victory over the Wolves. Had GC (16-8, 9-5) won the final two games of the series after a 10-0 loss Wednesday, it would retain a first-place tie with Mountain Crest and have a tie-breaker in hand thanks to a series win over the Mustangs.
Thursday’s game was a continuation of a 1-1 score the two teams made it to on Tuesday before weather halted the game. From that pickup point in the top of the second inning, the two teams went back and forth for several innings. The Bears got a run in the second, responded to by the Wolves in the third. In the fourth, two more by Bear River with one from Green Canyon. The fifth saw both teams score three and in the seventh both scored one. All in all, neither team took control, but that one extra run from the fourth inning proved to be decisive.
The Bears (17-7, 10-4) have a shot of their own at the region’s No. 1 seed for the state tourney, but it would require not just a win Friday, but also a loss by MC to last-place Logan as well.
Brock Rindlisbacher had a big day at the plate for the Wolves as he went 3 for 4 and drove in two runs. Bear Hale tripled, walked twice and scored three runs for GC.
MUSTANGS 11, GRIZZLIES 1 (6)
The Mustangs put the hurt on Logan and ignored past offensive stumbles en route to what could easily be a series sweep that earns MC the Region 12 title.
Brady Hall, the lone senior on Mountain Crest (15-8, 10-4), played in his final regular season home game in the orange and blue and went 2 for 4, including a triple, and scored one run. Three other Mustangs recorded multiple hits — Taylor Bitton (2 for 4, two RBIs), Tadon Burbank (2 for 4, one RBI), Ethan Wilson (2 for 3, three RBIs).
Offense has often been an issue for the Mustangs, but they managed to put up quite a few runs on its 11 hits. Head coach Steve Hansen said a lot of Thursday’s success came down to hits with two outs.
The Grizzlies (4-19, 2-12) moved down into last place in the region. Mountain Crest ace Caleb Archibald limited Logan to three hits, one of which was a double by Alex Ballot.