SPANISH FORK — A competitive and down-to-the-wire game was expected when Spanish Fork squared off against Maple Mountain Tuesday.
The outcome didn’t disappoint.
Region 8’s top two teams battled back and forth into extra innings until Nic Mafi’s sacrifice fly in the top of the 11th scored what proved to be the winning run for a 7-6 Golden Eagle victory.
“I just told the boys, 'How was the roller-coaster ride?'” said Maple Mountain coach Gary Miner — providing an apt description of the play on both sides.
The ride for Maple Mountain was pretty much uphill until the top of the fifth inning when Bryson Van Tassell doubled home two runs to cut Spanish Fork’s lead to 5-3.
The Dons managed to hold that two-run margin until the top of the seventh when the Golden Eagles again managed a descent on Tuesday’s roller coaster.
With two outs and no one on in the seventh, Maple Mountain managed to load the bases before a two-RBI single from Mitch Holmes tied things at 5-5. One batter later saw Connor Ellis put the Golden Eagles ahead 6-5 with an RBI single of his own entering the bottom-half of the inning.
The key play in that frame — and the key play for the entire game according to Miner — was a simple hustle play by Van Tassell.
With runners on first and second and two outs, Mafi hit what looked like a routine grounder to shortstop. The ball was fielded cleanly, but Van Tassell — hustling from first base — arrived just ahead of the throw to second to keep his team alive.
“We challenge our boys to never let them throw you out at second base on a ground ball and Bryson gets his cheeks down the line and he’s safe,” Miner said. “That’s the end of the ballgame right there (if he doesn’t get there). ... That’s awesome.”
Spanish Fork refused to go down easy, however, and tied things up in the bottom-half of the seventh courtesy of a Maverick Buffo RBI single to tie the game at 6-6.
Three scoreless innings ensued before Mafi’s sacrifice fly in the 11th gave his team the win and vaulted the Golden Eagles into first place in Region 8 with a 7-2 record. Spanish Fork fell to 6-3 in region with the loss.
Both teams will play again Thursday in what’s proving to be a very competitive Region 8.
"Six of the seven teams in our region are still fighting for playoff spots, so this was huge for us," Miner said. "You have to take just one game and get ourselves into the playoffs and play well."
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