MURRAY — Standing 6-feet tall and weighing in at around just 140 pounds (and that's probably after a big dinner), Tyler Young might not be the most imposing presence on the pitching mound.
But don't let his slender build fool you — this kid can really pitch.
Just ask the Murray High baseball team.
Young, a crafty right-hander from Maple Mountain, scattered six hits over five-plus innings and got all the run support he needed on Jake Mafi's two-run single in the fourth as the Golden Eagles soared past the Spartans 5-0 in a preseason matchup Tuesday at Ken Price Field.
Young, who ran his record to 4-0 on the young season, only had a couple of strikeouts, but he induced Murray batters to hit into nine groundouts — six of them handled cleanly by slick-fielding Maple Mountain third baseman Bryson Van Tassell, who also smacked a solo home run in the sixth. Young also got a key, inning-ending pop-up to shortstop Kade Poulsen with runners at second and third in the fifth, when the Golden Eagles were still clinging to a slim 2-0 lead.
"I've got a great defense behind me," Young said modestly, "and I owe most of the credit to those guys because (the Spartans) hit the crap out of the ball, but my defense had me backed up the entire time.
"He's a great third baseman," he said of Van Tassell, who had a busy and productive day at the hot corner, "and he's got plenty of power when he comes up to the plate, so it's good to have him there."
Though Young is far from the biggest pitcher on the planet, he throws plenty hard, he throws strikes, and he's learned that effective pitching is a lot like real estate — it's all about location, location, location.
"I just use a lot of my body," he said of the secret to being able to blow the ball by batters. "That's the biggest key to getting a lot of power. I mean, I don't throw extra hard, I just want strikes."
He admitted that, when he got pulled with one out and two on in the bottom of the sixth, "I wanted to stay in, but it was probably the better move to pull me out. They were getting good hits on me."
And although he said "it's fun" to be locked in a tight pitcher's duel, he said he'd rather have a big cushion to work with.
"The nerves sometimes get to you a little bit," Young said. "It's more fun to be up by 10 (runs) than it is to be close. It's always fun, though, it gets your nerves going and makes you feel alive."
Mafi definitely looked alive in the fifth when, with Kade Poulsen and his brother Nik Mafi in scoring position, he lined a single up the middle to break open what had been a scoreless deadlock.
"It was a fastball. It was perfect," said Jake Mafi, a junior who's the Maple Mountain catcher. "It might've been a little up and away. That's like the best feeling when you know it's gonna fall and you know you're gonna help your team win the game. It felt good.
"You've got to take every at-bat like it's going to win the game, like it's your last (at-bat), and that's what I did. I just put the bat on the ball and hope for the best and that's what happened."
He also had plenty of praise for the way Young pitched.
"He was hitting his spots well," Jake Mafi said. "He was struggling a little bit with his curveball, but he figured it out by the end of the game and got back in it.
"He's small, but he throws the batters off, that's for sure. He knows how to throw 'em off. He was throwing well."
Van Tassell's towering home run over the left-field fence made it 3-0 in the sixth, and the Golden Eagles added two more insurance runs in the seventh when Colton Hamilton walked, advanced on singles by Jaren Hall and Poulsen, and eventually stole home, and then Nik Mafi's RBI groundout brought Hall home with the game's final run.
Hall had three of Maple Mountain's 13 hits, while Poulsen and Nik Mafi each had two hits with a double and scored a run apiece. Jake Mafi and Hamilton each had a pair of singles as well for Maple Mountain (8-2), and Cannon Miner came on to pitch the final 1 2/3 innings to preserve the victory for Young.
Logan Jones had three of Murray's eight hits and Nate Gee had two hits for the Spartans (3-2), who stranded 12 base runners — nine in scoring position.1 comment on this story
"The boys have actually played very well," Maple Mountain coach Gary Miner said of his ballclub. "This time of the year, we're lucky to get outside before we go to St. George (where they won two preseason tournaments), and the number of practice sessions you have because we've been in St. George a couple of times has been very limited.
"But they've worked hard all winter long and that helps. They've come out of the gates. We've been putting the bat on the ball pretty consistently, and our pitchers have been fantastic.
"He's a great kid," Coach Miner said of Young. "He moved in and he's been a great addition to have. He's been very solid. He's around the dish; he's got great mechanics, so his arm durability has been awesome. He's a good addition to have, a good kid and a good player for us."