Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SPANISH FORK — Arik Mack was battling a brutal migraine, and the Maple Mountain southpaw pitcher wasn't sure how long he'd be able to last in Tuesday's first-round game of the 4A state tournament.
Seven innings later, though, Mack proved to be an even more painful headache for the Timpanogos High batters, as he blanked them with a superb four-hit shutout performance and got all the hitting help he needed from sophomore outfielder Nik Mafi in the Golden Eagles' 2-0 victory over the Timberwolves.
"Yesterday I had a migraine, and I took a couple of Excedrine and it didn't do anything," Mack said. "It hit me pretty hard and I was throwing up and everything.
"Coming into this game, I was feeling good but the first inning my fastball wasn't hitting the spots I like and the migraine came back again. I was still feeling a little throbbing in my head and some blurry vision.
"These are the kind of games I like, though, when some things work and some things don't and you have to battle through it," he said.
Timpanogos got two runners on base in each of the first two innings, including a two-on, no-out situation in the second. And Mack admitted that, after struggling early on, he wasn't sure if he'd be able to continue.
But he pitched his way out of trouble in those early jams, then retired 17 of the last 19 batters he faced, finishing with a flurry by fanning the Timberwolves' final two hitters.
The key, he said, was — of all things — switching his shoes.
"Actually I got some new cleats and, after that second or third inning, I switched back to my old cleats," Mack said. "It was the shoes, for sure."
Mack (9-0) wound up striking out seven and walking just one in his complete-game gem, outdueling Timpanogos right-hander Kincade Pay, who allowed just five hits and a walk over six innings.
"He's been fantastic all year long for us," Maple Mountain coach Gary Miner said of his junior left-hander. "He was off a little bit the first two innings and they had a chance, and we're fortunate they didn't capitalize.
"Arik deserves, because of his performance this year, to have a chance to fight through some things; we're not gonna have a hair-trigger. He's just been too consistent with his approach all year long.
"We had a little chat after the second inning, and I said, 'You know what, throw fastballs for a minute. Just get comfortable and it sets up your curveball.' He kind of came out throwing lots of curveballs. ... I told him to get that fastball established where your're comfortable, because everything builds off of that."
Mafi, meanwhile, punched a run-scoring single into left field in the first inning, then provided a little insurance in the sixth when he blasted a solo home run over the center-field fence some 380 feet away.
"I've been here for three years and I've watched every ballgame on this field," Minor said. "And we've never had a home run over center field. He crushed it — and there is a slight breeze into our face — he crushed the ball."
In both of those at-bats, the powerful 5-foot-8, 165-pound sophomore had two strikes on him before coming up with a clutch hit.
"My teammates got on base and then I just tried to do my job," Mafi said of his first-inning RBI single which scored Alex Burrows, who had singled and advanced on a groundout and a balk.
In the sixth, with the Golden Eagles clinging to a precarious 1-0 lead, Mafi almost popped out in foul territory to the Timpanogos catcher. But the ball sailed out of play and gave him another chance.
And he made the most of it.
"I've got one more chance to get on and help my team out," he said of his thought process after avoiding the popout before hammering the homer. "I honestly thought it was a ground-rule double when I first hit it. I didn't think it was out at all. I didn't see it go out until I was going around first base."
"I feel confident up to bat, I've got my teammates behind me, and we have a great defense out there."
Miner was mighty proud of Mafi's mature approach to hitting.
"We played Orem here last Monday and he struck out three times in a row," the Golden Eagles' coach said. "Instead of hanging his head and moping and pouting, he keeps a great attitude. We went to Orem last Tuesday and he had a grand slam and a three-run homer.
"He's just been very consistent. He's super-relaxed and super-balanced up there. ... He is a model of consistency. It's about generation of bat speed and balance, not just girth. And it's a credit to who he is — he's a great player."