When I was at the plate — two strikes — I’m a good two-strike hitter. I’ve been good all season and I knew I could do it. It was my team getting on base for me, I was like ‘We’re not losing this game.’ I just did it for them. —Connor Rollins, Salem Hills high school baseball player
KEARNS — Salem Hills was down to the final three outs and facing a pitcher that it had yet to record an actual hit against. The odds were stacked high and the claws of the one-loss bracket were lurching closer.
Mitch Jorgensen stepped to the dish, waited patiently, and ultimately earned a walk. The ensuing batter, Daniel Centeno, followed suit after being struck on the hand by an inside pitch. Then, Garrett McEwan placed a perfect bunt down the third baseline.
Suddenly, the Skyhawks were cooking with the bases-loaded. With one out, the ninth batter in the order, Conner Rollins, took strike one. Strike two. Strike three? Not exactly. Rollins ripped a walk-off two-run RBI on an off-speed pitch lingering in the zone past short to stun Mountain View, 2-1, and advance to the 4A semifinals at Kearns High Tuesday afternoon.
“When I was at the plate — two strikes — I’m a good two-strike hitter,” Rollins said. “I’ve been good all season and I knew I could do it. It was my team getting on base for me, I was like ‘We’re not losing this game.’ I just did it for them."
“Nothing really,” Rollins continued when asked what changed in the seventh. “My approach was just the same. I just sat back (on) his off-speed late in the count. It kind of came off my hands but I still got it through that 5-6 hole. All smiles.”
It was the third one-run win over the Bruins for Salem Hills in three weeks.
“That’s what it was. We got people on base,” Salem Hills coach Scott Haney said. “In the state tournament, there’s pressure, and that pitcher was doing a great job. He did a good job all game. I’ve got to feel for him. Our guys are gutsy. Conner has come up with two-strike hits all year, and we expected him to get it done right there. Conner can hit anywhere in our lineup, but we put him at ninth because he can get it done right there and he gets us to the lead-off spot. He’s been clutch all year.”
Jayce Hill finished with six strike-outs, and other than an error in the sixth inning, he had yet to give up an actual hit until two in the seventh. Colton Hill also fanned six batters with three hits.
“His mom was going to be (angry) at him if we didn’t win this,” Haney said. “If we didn’t win, graduation is at 2 (Wednesday) and we would have played at 1:30. So, he was doing everything he could to win that game.
“We had to get that so we play Thursday, and we can go to graduation tomorrow and enjoy ourselves.”
Mountain View landed the first punch in the fourth inning. Hill attempted to pick off the runner for Salem Hills, but the would-be out failed after a collision at second base advanced the runner to third. With two outs, the Bruins elected to suicide-squeeze. Dallin Carlson delivered down the first baseline for the 1-0 advantage.
It appeared the cushion was enough, but in the end the SkyHawks found a way.
“We’ve been good all year for coming back,” Rollins said. “We just did the same thing we’ve been doing all season.”