OREM Neither one of the two teams fighting for the fourth and final playoff spot in Region 4 could afford to lose this game. Timpanogos battled to keep its playoff hopes breathing, and American Fork went to war to get to the state tournament for the first time since 2002.
It was the Timberwolves that saved their season for another day as they squeezed out a 2-0 victory against the Cavemen, leaving the two teams tied for fourth in the region and set to take to the field yet again in a play-in game today at 3:30 p.m. at American Fork.
The Cavemen came into the game with a slight advantage after having eked out their own victories over Timpanogos and Lone Peak in their last two league contests and coming into the game at 3-6 in region play. Timpanogos was 2-7 entering the game and hoping to tie things up and force the play-in game for the fourth spot in Region 4 and a chance to meet Fremont in the first round of the state tournament.
The Cavemen were in this situation last season and lost the play-in game to Lone Peak, finding themselves on the outside looking in for the fifth straight season. They were hoping to avoid that possibility this year by taking the second game against Timpanogos, but the T-Wolves had other ideas.
"Our seniors really wanted this game a lot, and they came in with a lot of intensity. They were really careful not to celebrate too much because now tomorrow is what really matters," said Timpanogos coach Nikki Anderson.
What makes this contest even more interesting is the fact that Anderson spent the 2007 season as the American Fork head coach before moving on to Timpanogos for the 2008 season.
"It's so hard. I worked with them all last year, and I still love them all. That team has improved so much in the last two years, it's hard to see them lose," said Anderson about the Cavemen, but now she finds herself in the position of trying to knock her old team from the playoffs in what she knows is going to be an extremely emotional game.
And it was not only emotional but defensive when the two teams squared off as neither pitcher nor defense allowed more than five hits. Each team committed a single error, and there were several great defensive plays that dotted the game. Anderson was quick to point out a few spectacular plays by left fielder Kalee Gonzales and third baseman Kelsey Belliston that really stopped American Fork runs.
The Cavemen let up for only one inning, while that was just how long the Timpanogos bats were working as they recorded three of their four singles in the bottom of the third.
Jessica Rivers led things off with a walk and Alyssa Richins followed on her heals with a single to the infield. The only American Fork error of the game followed to juice the bases. Then it was Megan Bishop who smacked the RBI ground out, followed by a single from Belliston and an RBI single by Chelsie Laird, who sliced it down the third base line.
That was all the scoring they would need as they never allowed the tough Cavemen bats to string anything together.American Fork catcher Sandra Nessler kept up her solid hitting by going 2-3 with a walk, a single and a double, which she sailed to the center field fence in the third. Shelby Swapp was the only other Caveman to deliver multiple hits with a pair of singles.