OREM — In a sport where finishing what you start is a sign of athletic integrity, Layton pitcher Logan Greenhalgh made the biggest play of all.
He handed the ball to someone else.
Trailing 10-5 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, Cottonwood had closed the gap to three against Greenhalgh's team and had runners on first and second with two outs and leadoff hitter Josh Shapiro at the plate.
That was when Layton head coach Robert Ferneau decided not to end Greenhalgh's night, but to save it.
"Logan had given us the best he's got," Ferneau said. "We didn't want to have him go out that way. We wanted him to go out on top."
Jaden Trujillo relieved Greenhalgh, and on a 3-1 count drew a fly ball that, when caught, gave Greenhalgh the pitching win, the Lancers a 10-7 victory and the team a ticket to the next round.
"It was tough, but it was what we had to do and I knew (Trujillo) would get it done," Greenhalgh said.
"Tough" described the game, day and week for both teams. Cottonwood was playing its fourth game in three days, Layton its third game in two days.
Both were coming off marquee wins earlier Wednesday. The Colts had ousted Region 1 champion Syracuse in the afternoon, and the Lancers followed by eliminating defending state champion American Fork in walk-off fashion after Parker Kincade's third and final home run of the game.
Less than an hour after the latter contest, both Cottonwood and Layton were at it again, two teams vying for Cinderella honors in a tournament replete with heavyweights.
Third-seeded Cottonwood lost the first game of the playoffs, then blazed through the one-loss bracket with four straight wins. The second seed from Region 1, Layton held a longer grudge in mind to stay motivated throughout the postseason.
"We were picked fifth in our own region," Greenhalgh said. "We just took that and we just decided to put that to own power, work against everyone and show everyone that we're better than that."
Neither team played the part of woeful underdog Wednesday night. The Lancers' offense erupted for six runs in the second inning, punctuated by a three-run home run by Dexter Paiz.
Trailing 6-1, Cottonwood chipped away at the deficit. Andrew Goodfellow doubled and then scored on Martin Chagnovich's sacrifice.
The Colts tacked on three more runs in the fourth. Jacob Shapiro singled before being driven home by Josh Shapiro's RBI double. Chagnovich struck again with a single through the second-base gap. Nathan Gardner added one more run with a sacrifice of his own, making it a 6-5 game.
Layton struck back in the following two innings. Moises Perea blasted a ball to deep center field, good for two runs and a triple. The Lancers cashed in on two errors in the sixth, sending two base runners home on Trujillo's blooper to left.
Facing a five-run deficit and elimination, Cottonwood's first two runners reached in the bottom of the seventh. Jacob Shapiro's hit couldn't be gathered at first base, and the error sent in two runs.
Facing an 0-2 count, Palmer Powis was hit by a pitch, leaving both him and Jacob Shapiro on base and setting up Josh Shapiro as the potential game-tying run on the plate.
Then the pitching change took place, and a near-storybook rally ended.
"We had a lot of luck going up to this point," said Cottonwood head coach Jason Crawford. "I think maybe we used it all because we had a lot of things go our way up to this point. Sometimes you create your own luck. We just ran out of luck, I think."
Layton will play the loser of Thursday's semifinal game between Region 4 rivals Bingham and Riverton. Both games will take place Thursday 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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