Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
View photo gallery: 5A baseball state championship game: Taylorsville vs. American Fork
View photo gallery: 5A state baseball: Taylorsville vs. American Fork, Game 1
KEARNS — There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that the last time American Fork High School won a state championship in baseball, it was when the original Cavemen roamed the earth.
But it had been quite awhile — 27 years, to be exact — since these Cavemen from Utah County with big, hard-hitting clubs in their hands took home the first-place prize on the diamond.
Well, the long wait is finally over.
Junior right-hander Riley Ottesen gutted out a complete-game victory and knocked in what proved to be the winning run to cap a clutch sixth-inning comeback, and senior center fielder B.J. Eldredge had three huge RBIs and a couple of critical defensive plays as A.F. claimed the crown with a tense 5-4 victory over Taylorsville in the 5A title game Friday evening at Kearns High School's Gates Field.
"Oh, my gosh, I've been waiting for this for four years," said Eldredge with a smile so bright it would light up a dark cave. "This is ridiculous, greatest feeling in the world. You have no idea. ... It's amazing.
"It was scary, but we did the same thing in the Alta game (on Thursday), came back in the top of the seventh. The whole team believes in each other and never lets anything get us down. It just takes one inning for us, and that's what we did today."
Taylorsville (24-8) pushed these latter-day Cavemen to the limit, forcing a winner-take-all showdown by beating American Fork earlier Friday, 6-2. The Warriors then jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the two teams' second matchup, and it looked like the state title might very well be headed back to Taylorsville for the first time since 2002.
But American Fork (25-6), which lost in the 5A finale a year ago, came up with another gritty rally that has been the never-say-die Cavemen's trademark all season long.
"You know, you lose that first game, it's kind of tough to turn around and find momentum," said A.F. coach Jarod Ingersoll. "But somehow they just find a way. We haven't been a great come-from-behind team this year because we've been out in front of people so much. But there's been several times in this tournament where we've had to get it done with two outs and a big hit here or a big pitch there, and the kids did it. They're the state champs — it feels good.
"I was trying hard not to panic. And we just talked about steady — if I'd have clammed up, they'd have clammed up. But they did a great job; they deserve it, they're the hardest workers, they're the best team in the state of Utah.
"I'm just so proud of the guys and what they've done and what they've been able to accomplish," Ingersoll said. "These guys have just worked their butts off — in the weight room, we've done a ton of conditioning, we've talked about it and we've preached that we're the best team. And you know what? They came out and they got it done when they had to. Just all that work ethic and then seeing them grow and actually accomplish the huge goal that was our goal, it's awesome. They deserve all the credit."
Trailing 4-2 entering the bottom of the sixth inning, Jake Miles started things off with a walk, and Cade Hill followed with a bunt single. Jeremy Reynolds' sacrifice bunt pushed the runners over into scoring position, and Zac Haws smacked a run-scoring single to right field to make it 4-3.
Haws advanced to second on a wild pitch, and Eldredge then drove home the tying run with a soft grounder to the right side, with Haws moving to third base on the play. After Mo Flinders walked, Ottesen stepped up to the plate and, after falling behind in the count 0-2, he poked a run-scoring single into right field as Haws hustled home with the go-ahead run.
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