High school baseball: Skyline ace pitcher Bridger Nielson leads Eagles to win over Orem
Hugh Carey, Deseret News
OREM — Good things tend to happen for Skyline when senior Bridger Nielson takes the mound.
The towering lefty has a knack for shutting opponents down, and he did so again Thursday in a 3-1 Skyline win over Orem. Nielson pitched a complete game and tallied 11 strikeouts in what Skyline coach Erik Hansen described as just another day at the office.
“He’s a bona fide ace and has been pitching phenomenally for us,” Hansen said. “What you saw today is just what we’ve come to expect from him.”
Nielson used an overpowering fastball and deceptive breaking pitches to confound the Tigers through the first three innings — fanning six of the first nine batters he faced.
Things got interesting in the bottom of the fourth, however, as an Orem single and two errors left Nielson with the bases loaded and no one out. Catcher Mikhail Jones strode to the plate, and he connected on a sharply hit ball through the infield to cut Skyline’s lead to 3-1.
Instead of pouting or even fretting, Nielson bore down and put in some of his best work to close out the scoring threat.
Two straight strikeouts and a liner to second base kept Orem from adding any more runs in what proved to be its best scoring opportunity of the game.
“He kept his composure no matter what was happening behind him,” Hansen said of his pitcher. “He’s someone who wants the ball in his hands in tough situations and yeah, he pitched himself out of it well in that inning.”
Orem threatened again, putting runners in scoring position in both the fifth and seventh innings before Nielson again closed things down.
“He’s just been doing that sort of stuff for a long time for us now,” Hansen said. “He went 7-0 for us last year and I think he’s 4-0 this year already with a no-hitter, so it’s just what we’re used to. We know when he takes the mound that he’s likely going the whole way.”
Thursday’s win wasn’t all about Nielson, as the Eagles received key early contributions from the batter’s box en route to scoring three runs. Two fielding errors by the Tigers translated to two runs for the Eagles in the first before Dimitri Sakellariou singled home another run in the second.
“We got to them early, which is always good,” Hansen said. “We would have obviously liked to score more, but their pitcher, Parker Overly, really pitched nicely for them. That’s a good team and it’s great for us to come out of here with a win.”
With the victory, Skyline improves to 11-3 on the year and 3-0 in Region 7. Orem falls to 6-4 and 0-1. The teams will square off again Friday at Skyline.
“This is a tough region and we expect Orem to give us another good game (Friday),” Hansen said. “It’s early, so we’ll take it, but there’s a long way to go and every game is going to be tough in this region from here until the end of the year.”