MURRAY — Arik Mack was dialed in Wednesday.
It didn’t matter whether the Maple Mountain ace threw his fastball, curveball or change-up, Murray’s batters rarely made contact in the second round of the 4A state tournament.
“I felt like I could throw (my curveball) anytime in the count, anywhere I wanted, which was awesome,” said Mack.
The result was a dominant 14-strikeout performance as he only allowed four hits to lead Maple Mountain to the convincing 5-2 victory at Ken Price Field.
Mack lost his shutout bid in the seventh inning after Murray’s Rigby Butikofer singled in a pair following a hit batter and two balks, but Mack wasn’t stressing about losing the zero on the scoreboard.
Staying in the winners bracket heading into the second week of the 4A state tournament next week was all that mattered.
Mack struck out three hitters in the first, third and fourth innings, including striking out Murray’s 3-4 hitters all three times they stepped to the plate. Of his 14 strikeouts, five were looking.
“I’m not shocked because Arik is a fantastic pitcher, and has command of all of his pitches. He threw full-count change-ups and curveballs, and I don’t think they’ve seen a lot of pitchers that do that,” said Maple Mountain coach Gary Miner. “Pitchers usually go to a fastball 'cause they think, ‘Oh I can’t walk him,’ but he’s confident in all of his pitches, and you saw the results of that.”
In the marquee 4A second-round game, Murray countered Mack with left-handed junior Spencer Downs, but he was forced to leave the game with an ankle injury in the second inning.
With Murray already trailing 1-0 following a Kade Poulsen RBI single in the second, Downs injured himself while starting a critical 1-2-3 double play with the bases loaded and nobody out. Justin Adams came on in relief and got the next out to prevent Maple Mountain from blowing the game wide open.
Three innings later, however, Poulsen delivered the knockout blow for Maple Mountain.
His three-run double with two outs in the fifth capped a four-run inning for the Golden Eagles as they extended the lead to 5-0. Murray coach Marce Wilson used three pitchers to try and get out of the jam but to no avail.
It was no surprise to see Poulsen doing the damage at the plate. The freshman was 4 for 4 in Tuesday’s first-round win over Sky View, and after Wednesday’s 2-for-3 outing with four RBIs, he’s 9 for his last 10.
“He has been absolutely on fire. He’s settled into that spot nicely,” said Miner.
With the victory, Maple Mountain advances to face Region 8 foe Timpanogos in a winners bracket game Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Kearns High. Murray drops into the one-loss bracket and faces Roy at 11 a.m. at Kearns High Monday.
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company