OREM — Riverton can pitch and play defense with any team in the state, but lately the team's ability to score runs has been its Achilles heel.
That changed on Monday when the Silverwolves cranked out nine hits in a 5-1 win over Taylorsville in a 5A state tournament one-loss bracket game. Riverton's clutch hitting — along with a stellar pitching performance by sophomore Tanner Draper — was too much for a Warriors team that was eliminated from the postseason earlier than expected.
"Finally, finally," Riverton coach Jay Applegate said of his team's hitting on Monday. "In our last five games, we haven't had more than five hits and we've been in every game because of our pitching and defense. We were able to string a couple of hits, and it gave us a chance to be on top and finish the game out."
The Silverwolves scored four of their runs in the second inning, and they stayed in control for the remainder of the game. No. 9 hitter Skyler Fullmer gave Riverton its go-ahead runs with a two-run single. Mitch Watrous added an RBI single as the Silverwolves led 5-1 after two.
Riverton has played in numerous close games this season and is 2-5 in one-run games. Clutch hitting drastically improved for the Silverwolves on Monday and gave them all the cushion they would need early in the contest.
"All those (one-run) games could have gone either way and it came down to hitting," Applegate said. "Finally, today it came through for us."
So did Draper, who is used mostly in relief by Applegate. The sophomore started just his second game of the season and was almost unhittable. He mostly threw a changeup that kept the Warriors off balance, and he allowed just five hits.
"Tanner was phenomenal," Applegate said. "You've got to get that kid a shot when he's throwing so good. He's a very composed kid and he threw strikes. That was the key."
Another key was Riverton's defense. Draper committed the team's only error on a pickoff attempt. After Dallas Carroll and Marc Reynolds opened the game with back-to-back singles, the Silverwolves turned a double play to stymie the Warriors' momentum.
"It's honestly my team," Draper said of what worked well for him in his outing. "My backup — my defensive players — was what helped me out big today. I'm grateful for them."
Riverton went ahead 1-0 in the first after scoring on a Taylorsville error. The Warriors tied it in the second when Isaac Fullmer had an RBI single. After the Silverwolves went ahead 5-1, Draper retired seven straight batters and Taylorsville never again reached third base.
"It gave me a lot of confidence," Draper said of the four-run lead his team got him. "I already had confidence at the start of the game, but that just boosted it up even more. It helped me out big time."
Scott Donnell had two hits and scored two runs for Riverton. Draper also had two hits.
Taylorsville only went 1-2 in the state tournament but had an outstanding bounce-back season. The Warriors won 11 more games than they did last season.
Lone Peak beat Copper Hills 16-4, and Brighton downed Skyline 8-1 in other elimination games on Monday. The West-Syracuse game was postponed until today at 9:30 a.m. Riverton plays Lone Peak today at 2 p.m. in another elimination game.