SPANISH FORK When a baseball team is struggling a little bit to score runs, sometimes a coach just needs to take a little of the guesswork away.
Needing a run to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth with a runner on first in Wednesday's battle against 4A power Cottonwood, Spanish Fork coach Jim "Shoe" Nelson decided to roll the dice with a risky hit-and-run. He didn't want his batter, Brock Duke, being so picky. And it's kind of hard to ask your clean-up hitter to bunt. Therefore, Nelson wanted to do something to force his hitter to be more aggressive.
"I think we've been taking too many strikes," Nelson said.
With the runner going and Brock Duke knowing he had to swing, the junior slugger ripped a liner a couple of feet above Cottonwood's leaping second baseman. Had the ball been hit a few feet lower, the Colts would have had an easy double play. Instead, Duke's hard-hit ball rolled all the way to the fence for a game-tying triple. The clutch hit also opened the gates for three more runs in Spanish Fork's 5-2 come-from-behind win.
"You need a few breaks in this game," Nelson said.
Prior to their big four-run sixth, the Dons were coming up on the short end of the breaks. The Colts led 2-1 after five innings despite having only one hit. Cottonwood scored a run in the first on a lead-off walk, a wild throw, a fielder's choice and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Kyle Beverly.
After the Dons had tied the game 1-1 in the second on Taggart Lunceford's two-out, opposite-field single, the Colts went back up by one on Peewee Rodgers' RBI single between short and third. The hit pushed across Austin Wadsworth, who reached on a walk and then stole second.
It looked like Cottonwood's two runs were going to hold up with the way starter Kendall Mayer was throwing. In four innings, the righty allowed only three hits and struck out nine.
But Cottonwood coach Jon Hoover wasn't going to extend his starter and went to the bullpen in the fifth. Spanish Fork put two runners on in that frame but stranded both. But the Dons finally broke through in the sixth.
Tyler Hanks started it with a walk. Pinch runner Trevor Randolph scored the tying run from first on Brock Duke's triple. Gentry Mitchell put Spanish Fork up for good with a fisted bloop single over first. The Dons got some extra cushion when Lunceford added two more RBIs with a two-out, two-run, opposite-field double to the left-field corner.
"That kid worked hard on his swing in the offseason, and I'm happy for him," Nelson said. "Good things happen to kids who work hard. He's turned into a solid little ballplayer."
Sophomore Adam Duke earned the win with two scoreless innings on the hill. Senior Devin Nelson, despite allowing only one hit over five innings, stood to take the loss had the Dons not rallied in the sixth. In total, the two Spanish Fork pitchers gave up only two hits and struck out five."If you pitch it and play good defense, you're going to be OK. And boy are we ever pitching it," coach Nelson said.