OREM — Plan A for most pitchers is to get the strikeout. Riverton baseball head coach Jay Applegate told starting pitcher Tanner Draper to aim for something a little different.
"(Layton) doesn't strike out a whole lot," Applegate said. "They put the ball in play. They battle with two strikes. Tanner's emphasis was, 'Let them put the ball in play,' 'cause we believe that our defense can make the majority of the plays."
Draper did so to perfection, and the defense followed suit. The result was a flurry of momentum-killing fielding plays and a 3-0 shutout win over Layton, sending the Region 4 champs to the 5A semifinals.
Draper threw five strikeouts while scattering five hits in the complete-game win. He walked just one batter in the process. After watching right fielder Sam Christensen make a running catch on a fly ball toward the fence, Draper finished the game with the final strike of the night.
"I think (Draper) got stronger as the game went on," Applegate said.
The Silverwolves' infield got better as well, turning in two double plays that dashed Layton's hopes of making a dent in the scoreboard.
The first was the most impressive, coming with two runners on in the fourth inning and a bunt toward the first-base line. First baseman Jared White rushed forward to pick up the ball and, wheeling to his left, fired a throw to third baseman Cam Gust, who quickly relayed the ball to Jimi Dixon — at first base.
The unconventional 3-6-5 double play drew an eruption of cheers from the Riverton fans at Brent Brown Ballpark. It also negated the two no-out base hits with which Layton had started the inning.
"The bunt (double) play was a momentum killer," Applegate said. "The first bunt was fouled off. It looked like (the batter) was trying to push it down to first base, so we were trying to bring our guy in. If he bunted it fairly hard, we knew we could get this guy. The second guy was just a bonus for us."
Riverton's infield struck again in the fifth with a 5-4-3 double play that also crippled Layton's chances of scoring.
The Silverwolves capitalized offensively, turning in three consecutive one-run innings for the final margin. Draper sacrificed for the game-opening run in the third inning, driving in Gust.
A Layton fielding error allowed another run to score in the fourth, but a diving catch from Lancer right fielder Josafat Chavez left three Riverton runners stranded.
Dixon capped off the scoring in the fourth inning, sending a ball to shallow center field and driving in pinch runner Jeff Arens.
Riverton will face Region 4 rival Bingham in the semifinals, one of just two teams to hand the Silverwolves a loss over their last 13 games. The other? Fellow Region 4 member American Fork.
"Bingham's a very solid program — some of the best coaches in the state," Applegate said. "We have a lot of respect for them. It's going to come down to maybe one or two plays. They usually do. I think whatever team makes those plays is going to get the victory."
Layton will play the Cavemen in a one-loss bracket game Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Brent Brown Ballpark.
The Silverwolves and Miners will play Thursday at 11 a.m., also at Brent Brown Ballpark.
Matt Petersen is the Sports Web Editor for DeseretNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheMattPetersen.
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