I think if you asked anybody that plays on this team where we’re at they’d be in heaven. We feel so lucky and so fortunate. We’re senior-heavy nearly every year. Our kids buy in and work hard and they enjoy each other. They’ve got one more day together to be a team. —Joey Sato, Bingham baseball coach
OREM — Bingham and Riverton are no strangers. A mere 3 miles separate the neighboring schools, but for the rivals, the proximity is comparable to living next to in-laws.
The Region 4 baseball title, contested between the two schools, was as thin as the distance between them. Eventually, it was decided by six runs in three games, as Riverton took the series 2-1. So, naturally, in the 5A semifinals at Brent Brown Ballpark, a watertight game was on the horizon, right?
The Miners desperately needed space from the boys down the road.
In five innings, Bingham overwhelmed the ‘Wolves. After eight batters in the order accounted for 13 hits, six in the second inning alone, the Miners advanced to the 5A state championship for the second time in three years Thursday with an 11-1 win.
“I’ll tell you what — that’s a good ballclub,” Bingham coach Joey Sato said. “They’re our region champion. We grinded out some at-bats today. I don’t know how many two-strike hits we had, which is just huge for us.
“I think if you asked anybody that plays on this team where we’re at they’d be in heaven,” Sato continued, fighting back emotions. “We feel so lucky and so fortunate. We’re senior-heavy nearly every year. Our kids buy in and work hard and they enjoy each other. They’ve got one more day together to be a team.”
Bingham (21-7) will play Layton (20-9) in the 5A title game at Brent Brown Ballpark on the Utah Valley campus Friday at 11 a.m.
“Always focus on the next 200 feet,” Bingham’s Jacob Druce said. “There’s a lot of excitement right now, but our main focus is we still have at least one more game to play; 200 feet ends eventually, but right now we’ve got to focus on what’s coming for us (Friday). We’ve got to calm down and prepare ourselves because no matter what happens we’re going to be playing a very good team (Friday).”
Riverton scored early in the first inning of Thursday's game after Trevor Peterson reached on a leadoff single. Then, a sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly to left by Jimi Dixon and Jared White, respectively, gave the ‘Wolves a 1-0 lead.
That lasted a millisecond.
Bingham’s Austin Florez evened the score at 1-1 with two outs in the bottom of the first. From that point forward the game was bluer than the deep sea.
The majority of the hits were bullets too hot for Riverton’s infield gloves or shallow bloopers.
“How many hits were 99 hoppers through the infield? How many were over that didn’t even make it to the grass — they hit on the dirt?” Sato said. “They found some place to land today and other days they don’t. Again, sometimes the game rewards you and sometimes it kicks you in the teeth.”
The lofty cushion provided Bingham ace Brennon Lund the luxury of attacking batters without the fear of setting up a bomb.
“It means a lot of my team to come out and do that for me. It relaxes me a lot to come out and get runs early,” Lund said. “We had a better mentality today. We came out strong and wanted to play. We feel like we’re ready to go.”
Druce agreed the Miners had a different approach than the previous three meetings.
“I think we had trouble adjusting at the beginning of the year when we faced them,” Druce explained. “They’re a good team — don’t get me wrong — they’re a very good team. They play the game right way and they play well. We tried to do what we’re capable of doing and that’s what we tried to focus on.”
Bingham added two more runs on Lance Harrison’s single in the fourth. Then, after Druce brought another across with a single, Stout wrapped up the 10-run mercy in the fifth with soft drop into right.