WEST JORDAN — This could very well have been a state championship showdown between two tradition-rich prep baseball programs, Bingham and Taylorsville, who have both been perennial powerhouses in the Beehive State for many years.
Instead, it was a win-or-go-home battle between two proud teams who produced one of the most thrilling finishes in this year's 5A state tournament.
Taylorsville struck for five runs in the sixth inning to take a 5-1 lead, then held off a furious Bingham comeback bid in the Miners' final at-bat to grab a dramatic 5-4 victory Wednesday night, keeping the Warriors alive in the one-loss bracket at Salt Lake Community College's Cate Field.
"It definitely got close at the end," Taylorsville coach Jake Brown said with a sigh of relief. "We know Bingham; we've played Bingham for a couple of years now, and you know they're always going to make it close. They're a class program, they compete every time out, and that's why they've had so much success there. At no point did we think we were going to just skate through this (game) unchallenged, and that's a testament to their program.
"But at the same time, we were ready for that challenge. We wanted the ball tonight and we wanted to be in that situation. We've got a bunch of real tough kids in here that have worked a long time and put in the hours, and they think they're good enough. And that makes a huge difference when those tight situations come up — having kids that know they've earned the right to be here and think that they're gonna win."
With the win, Region 2 champion Taylorsville (22-7) — which whipped Jordan 11-1 earlier Wednesday — moves into today's tourney semifinals at Kearns High's Gates Field, where the Warriors will play at 1:30 p.m. in another do-or-die duel against the loser of the championship-bracket semifinal matchup between American Fork and Alta, who tangle at 11 a.m. today.
Taylorsville got a strong pitching performance earlier in the day from Dallas Carroll, who stopped Jordan by allowing one run on five hits with six strikeouts and a walk.
Brown credited he and Hayden Heugly for both coming through big-time on a day when the Warriors had to win — twice — or go home.
"He was great," Brown said of Heugly, "and, I mean, it's our senior group that's just carried us through this. We've got a lot of young guys playing some great roles, but our seniors have stepped up huge. And we knew today we had two seniors on the mound. We like 'em both about the same and we were looking at who matches up with who better.
"And with Dallas against Jordan this morning and Hayden against Bingham tonight, they both were just great for us, especially coming off a rough outing for Hayden last week. We knew he'd rebound and we knew he'd come out and compete for us, and he was excellent today."
The American Fork-Alta winner will advance into Friday's championship finale needing one more win to take home the state title.
Heugley, a senior right-hander, handcuffed Bingham to one run on six hits through the first six innings, but the Miners' own stellar senior right-hander, Brady Lail, allowed just two hits through his first five shutout innings.
But Heugly led off the Warriors' game-winning rally with a double down the left-field line, and Dallas Carroll promptly bashed a two-run homer to left field to suddenly give Taylorsville a 2-1 lead.
"It's well up there," Carroll said in ranking the go-ahead homer on his personal list of best all-time blasts. "It might even be No. 1, just because that's a good pitcher, good arm, I don't even remember the last time we beat 'em, ever since I was a freshman, so it feels good to beat 'em, especially in this type of atmosphere."
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