OREM — The misfits wouldn't be denied.
American Fork, the self-proclaimed misfits of 5A baseball, outlasted Cottonwood 9-8 in the 5A state tournament on Tuesday night. The Cavemen, seemingly always underrated, under-the-radar and under-appreciated, will play Bingham in the winners' bracket final on Thursday.
It was American Fork's 12th straight victory. Six of those wins, including the last two, have come by one run.
"We're a bunch of not-to-be-denied misfits," said Cavemen coach Jared Ingersoll. "No one expected us to be here. No one expected us to come this far. There was a plan back in the summer, we formulated it and guys went to work. We expected to be here. We're a good ball team. We don't get a lot of credit that we deserve so we kind of dubbed ourselves that (the misfits)."
The misfits beat Cottonwood in typical American Fork fashion. The Cavemen handled adversity, got contributions from seemingly everyone on the roster, and made plays in the end to win.
American Fork led for the majority of the game before Cottonwood tied it at 8-8 in the sixth. In the bottom of the seventh, Zach Robinson started the winning rally with a double. Ryan Pitcher singled, and Tyler Flinders was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Zac Willis then drove in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly.
Willis provided his team with the game-deciding run, but humbly credited his teammates for it.
"It took the three guys before me to do that to get (me) in my situation," Willis said. "I just told myself to try and hit a groundball. I just had to hit something there and that's what I did."
Willis said the misfits were prepared to be in another tight contest, and that the players believed they could get it done.
"That's what we've worked for this whole year," he said. "I just trust my teammates. We all got each other's backs when it comes down to that situation."
Before Willis won the game for the misfits, Danny Beddes helped save the day. Beddes relieved Jeremy Reynolds in the top of the seventh with runners on first and third with only one out. Facing Cottonwood's top of the order, Beddes jammed Brad Matson, forcing a pop-up, and got Zack Story-Baker to fly out to end the threat.
"We brought Danny in, and he just shut them down," Ingersoll said. "They're good hitters, too. We were in danger of them making something happen, and Danny just came in and overpowered them."
Willis, Pitcher and Flinders each drove in two runs for the Cavemen. Willis, Pitcher and Nic Searle each had three hits. American Fork used four pitchers against the Colts. Kyle Wright relieved Blake Brailsford in the second and threw 2 2-3 innings before Reynolds entered in the fourth.
"It's a complete 'us' effort," Ingersoll said. "The kids have just bought into what we have going on. You can't say enough about the kids. They just keep battling and battling. They keep hanging in there for each other."
Cottonwood put together its own comeback after falling behind 6-2 after two innings. Matson, who started the game on the mound and was chased by the Cavemen in the second, redeemed himself at the plate with a home run and three RBIs.
BINGHAM 4, JORDAN 3: The Miners overcame a three-run deficit by rallying in the sixth and seventh innings. Bryson Benton tied the game in the sixth with a two-run single, and Brady Ralph drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh. Brady Lail threw a complete game for Bingham, striking out 13 while allowing four hits.