It took only three batters in the top of the first inning for West High coach Gean Plaga to decide it was going to be a close game with defending state champion Springville.
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead, then saw the lead erased when a baserunner was called out for failing to touch third base. Eventually they recovered as West took a closely fought 5-2 win over the Red Devils, Tuesday at Derks Field.The win moved West into Wednesday's winners' bracket game at Ken Price Park against Dixie, the only other undefeated team in the tournament.
Trailing 2-1 in the top of the sixth, the Panthers struck the final blows when a disastrous error by the Red Devils let two runs in. With one out and the bases full, West's Chris Stepan hit a grounder to second base. The throw to catcher Shad Messick forced out the lead runner. But Messick's wild throw to third base let two runs in. Then Kevin Easter tripled to right, scoring two more to provide the Panthers with a cushion.
"That broke their backs," said Plaga.
West scored in the top of the first when Stepan singled and came home on Marce Wilson's triple to left. But Stepan was called out when an umpire contended he failed to touch third base.
"I don't know whether he touched it or not. He said he did, but it's hard to tell," said Plaga. "From then on you could tell it was going to be a good battle."
West's first run that actually stayed on the scoreboard came in the third on Mike Romano's ground-out, scoring Wilson. Wilson, who left Monday's game with pulled rib muscles, came back on Tuesday to go three-for-three and score two runs.
The Red Devils went up 2-1 in the fourth on RBI singles by Kevin Poulsen and Chad Gottfredsen. Behind a strong pitching performance from Ryan Averett, Springville clung to its lead. The Devils nearly scored again in the fifth, had it not been for a double play that ended the inning.
While Averett allowed a respectable nine hits - two being key bunts - West hurler Ben Byrd also went the distance, holding Springville to well-spaced 11 hits. "He was hot tonight," said Plaga. "That's about as good as you'll see him pitch."
The only major damage to Byrd came in Springville's two-run, four-hit fourth.
With Dixie coming up on Wednesday, Plaga admits his pitching depth is about spent and the games will continue to be tough. "It's going to be tough from here on out," he said. "But every year our kids hang in there and do what they have to do to win."
Tooele 9, Payson 7
Three Tooele pitchers combined to hold Payson to only four hits in the Buff's win.
Tooele built a seemingly comfortable 9-1 lead, but the Lions responded with three runs each in fifth and sixth innings to make it close.
There were no extra base hits struck in the game.
Spanish Fork 9, Bountiful 1
The Dons got a grand slam from Robbie Reid in the six-run fourth to eliminate Bountiful from the tourney.
Greg Lindsay went the distance for Spanish Fork, allowing only two hits to the Braves.
Five Bountiful errors plagued the Braves' effort.
Dixie 13, Murray 3
The Flyers remained undefeated by scoring six second-inning runs and stopping Murray after five innings, due to the 10-run rule.
Dixie's Dustin Milne unloaded a grand slam in the second inning to lead the charge. Teammate Wade Harward tripled to help the effort of Judd Wilstead, who went the distance on the mound for Dixie.