PAYSON With postseason play for high school baseball just around the corner, pitchers are becoming as precious as sunny days.
So it was no surprise Payson coach Scott Haney was thrilled with the complete game he got from Justin Jensen and a 5-4 win over Provo to keep the Lions' hopes alive of capturing third place in Region 6.
"We knew this was a big game," Haney said. "Our kids rose to the occasion, and we beat a good team."
The win helped Payson stay ahead of the Bulldogs in Region 6 and make Thursday's game against the third-place Cavemen even more important.
Jensen, who hadn't thrown seven straight innings all season, wasn't even scheduled to start the game, but managed to battle through a rough start and let his teammates help him out on both ends of the field.
"It was a little bit hairy," Haney said. "When we went ahead 5-4, Justin got some confidence. The thing about Justin is he doesn't walk people. He makes them put the ball in play, so if we play defense we're gonna have a chance. He was one batter away from coming out several times, but he did a great job."
Trailing 4-1 in the third, the Lions' offense put together three hits and tacked four runs on the board with the help of some poor Provo defense. Tyler Newbold moved from first to third base on an overthrow to second and scored shortly after when Devin Crouch's bloop single dropped in front of two outfielders. Crouch would score the go-ahead run from second base on a hit-and-run ground ball when Dave Griner couldn't handle the throw to first.
"When you put the ball in play, you never know," Haney said. "If you strike out or hit the ball in the air, you know what happens."
From then on, the game turned into a chess match between Haney and Provo coach Lance Moore on the base paths. Jensen picked off two of the three base runners he had in the last five innings, and Provo threw out two consecutive runners stealing second in the fourth.
"It was funny because Lance would guess right on me, and I would guess right on him," Haney said. "That's just good baseball."
Provo starting pitcher Blake Golding also had a good day on the mound, allowing seven hits and earning three runs in four innings. Golding pitched a complete game of his own two weeks ago against Payson, surrendering only four hits.
"That kid had our number last time we played him," Haney said. "We didn't make any adjustments on him, but today we hit the ball to the right center of the field and did a good job."