It's nice to be by yourself (at the top of the region). "We knew coming into this region that it was a tough region. To have it come down to the very last game in the region and to have so much on the line, to have the kids play well, it's a joy. —Jay Applegate, Riverton baseball coach
A three-way tie for first in Region 4 between Riverton, Bingham and American Fork was a possibility entering Wednesday's slate of games.
Turns out the Silverwolves had no intention of sharing the region trophy.
Jared Barton scattered six hits over a complete game and helped keep the defending state champion Cavemen scoreless for four consecutive innings as Riverton won 3-2 on the road, clinching the 2013 Region 4 championship.
"It's nice to be by yourself (at the top of the region)," Riverton head coach Jay Applegate admitted. "We knew coming into this region that it was a tough region. To have it come down to the very last game in the region and to have so much on the line, to have the kids play well, it's a joy."
Wednesday's win assures Riverton of a No. 1 seed in the state 5A tournament, though both players and coaching staff were quick to admit the team's work is far from done. Last season only one No. 1 seed advanced further than the quarterfinals in the 5A bracket, with American Fork playing the spoiler role over Region 2 champion Taylorsville in the championship game.
With those same Cavemen and returning ace Riley Otteson playing hosts on Wednesday afternoon, the Silverwolves needed to counter with stellar play of their own.
Barton and the Riverton infield did and then some.
"Probably one of the best games I've seen him throw," Applegate said. "He got ahead of a lot of hitters. He let his defense help. His pitch count wasn't up, but he got a lot of ground balls, and I think that was a key to his success today."
The senior hurler struck out five in the first three innings. When the Cavemen did manage to make contact, the ball rarely managed to reach the outfield.
Meanwhile an RBI double from Jared White and a single from Cam Gust gave Riverton a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. The Cavemen tacked on a run of their own in the bottom of the inning, but B.J. Newman answered for Riverton with an RBI single of his own.
Riverton's performance still wasn't enough to completely shake American Fork. Twice the Silverwolves loaded the bases, only to see Otteson recover from rough stretches on the mound and retire the side.
The Cavemen finally broke their offensive drought in the sixth inning, getting a deep RBI triple from Sean Hardman with two outs already gone. The run closed the deficit to one, but Hardman was left stranded on third after the following batter grounded out.
With the long-awaited breakthrough at the plate, American Fork hoped the sixth inning would be a sign of more offense to come in the seventh and last frame.
Two deep fly balls and a ground-out ended those hopes, as well as those for at least a portion of the region title.
"We just didn't do our job offensively like we should have," American Fork head coach Jarod Ingersoll said. "Obviously it would have been nice to be the region champs, but there's a bigger prize. Hopefully our team understands that and what we're capable of doing."
American Fork will be the third-seeded team from Region 4 in the state tournament, forcing it to play on the road in the opening round against the second-seeded team from Region 3.
After being that third-seeded team last year, Riverton is hoping its turnaround in 2013 is far from over.
"It feels good to be on top, but you can't let it get to our heads. We've still got to play our game and just coming out like we've been the last few weeks."
Matt Petersen is the sports Web editor for DeseretNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheMattPetersen.