HERRIMAN — Win or go home. That's the scenario Provo faced twice in three days.
After finishing in a three-way tie for Region 8's fifth and final playoff spot, the Bulldogs beat Orem, which had earlier defeated Springville, on Thursday to snag the league's final spot.
That set up a second win-or-go-home scenario, as Region 8's final playoff team had to face Herriman of Region 7 on Saturday in a play-in game to qualify for the 16-team Class 4A field.
Seemingly against all odds, the Bulldogs got the job done.
Provo beat Herriman in a classic nine-inning affair that featured clutch hits, defense and ultimately the Bulldogs taking advantage of three critical miscues by the Mustangs in the final inning that led to six runs.
With that, Provo prevailed 11-6 and earned the right to face Region 6 champion Woods Cross in the first round of the 4A tournament Tuesday.
In that all-important play-in game against Herriman, Provo sent out freshman Jack Rhineer, who last pitched in a loss to Maple Mountain on Monday. Rhineer went seven innings, and even though he didn't get the win, he pitched well enough and long enough to really help the Bulldog cause.
This allowed Provo coach Lance Moore to turn to senior Devin Johnson to finish the game.
Herriman started the contest strong with two runs in the first inning. Leadoff hitter Kody Jarvis cracked a double and later scored. The Mustangs also plated another run to jump out to a 2-0 lead.
But Provo responded with two runs of its own in the second frame with Rhineer helping his own cause with a hit.
Herriman moved out in front in the third inning 3-2, but Provo bounced back when Colton Moore tripled and knocked in Ty Atkinson, who walked before him. Moore later scored on a ground out and Provo moved ahead 4-3.
Herriman tied the game with a run in the bottom of the fifth, only to see Provo answer. In the top of the seventh the Bulldogs went ahead when Wesley Bosco's RBI single scored Braden Griffin who sped up run for Rhineer after he collected his third hit on the day.
Rhineer couldn't finish the game as Herriman extended the contest with a run in the seventh and he yielded to Johnson.
Both teams scored runs in the eighth inning and the Mustangs even got the winning run to third.
However, the wheels came off the wagon for Herriman in the top of the ninth. With two runners on Griffin executed a brilliant bunt to load the bases. Then Moore grounded to second, but the Mustang catcher's foot was not on the plate, which plated a Bulldog run.
Daxton Rees then reached on an infield single, scoring another run before Johnson popped out. Then Cole Murdock lifted a high fly ball to center field, which was dropped, scoring two more runs. Bosco grounded out but scored another run for the Bulldogs, and that was followed up by a RBI single by Danny Jenkins.
The Mustangs finally ended the bleeding but could only manage one more run as Johnson struck out back-to-back Herriman batters to end the game.
For Provo, its journey to the tournament seemed unlikely. Its fate was held in the hands of Springville, which was down 1-0 to Orem when that game was suspended Tuesday night. Provo had to have a Red Devil victory to keep hope alive as then Orem, Springville and Provo would finish in a three-way tie for fifth place. The Tigers couldn't hold the lead when the game resumed on Wedensday with Springville winning.
The Bulldogs took advantage of that new life to beat Orem on Thursday and Herriman Saturday, overcoming deficits in both contests with late-inning heroics.
Article written by Brian E. Preece who is a freelance prep writer.