ST. GEORGE When junior pitcher Chunner Nyberg hurt his hand last week, a lot of bad things flashed through his coach's head.
Would Dixie's ace pitcher be able to pitch in the state playoffs? Would Nyberg be out of the lineup for long? Will he be able to throw his pitches with touch and velocity?
Ah, but Flyers head coach Jeff Messerly needn't have worried. Nyberg was masterful in his 4A playoff debut, baffling Orem hitters for a complete game 6-0 shutout Wednesday at Don Lay Flyer Field.
Nyberg took an extra day to heal, starting on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. When he did take the mound, despite a little soreness in his pitching hand, the junior hurler allowed just three singles and a pair of walks. Only one Tigers base runner even reached second base in the game.
"We gave him an extra day to recover and he's still not 100 percent, but he battled through it," Messerly said. "Isn't he amazing? We knew this was a pivotal game in the hunt for a state title. It was a big time effort."
It was a typical game for the Flyers, who are known for their defensive prowess and great pitching. They also got a couple of runs early in the game and that seemed to fuel their confidence.
"We didn't start the game very well Tuesday (against Olympus)," Messerly said. "That was a real emphasis for us, to be aggressive early on and get the lead."
A pair of singles by Mitch Mantle and Stephen Nelson, followed by a wild pitch by Orem starter Nate Adamson, set Dixie up with its first run, an RBI groundout by Nate Carter.
Dixie doubled its lead in the bottom of the second inning when Damien Culver singled home Chace Culver.
With Nyberg on cruise control on the mound, the Flyers essentially put the game away with a four-run rally in the fourth inning. Chase Harmon started the rally with a one-out solo home run.
With two outs, Culver got his second single of the day. Kimball Nelson chased him home with a stand-up triple on a ball hit into the right field corner. The next batter, Mantle, must have liked what he saw and ripped the ball into almost exactly the same spot. The result turned out to be a baseball rarity back-to-back stand-up triples.
Stephen Nelson knocked Mantle home with a double off the left field wall, and when the dust had cleared, Dixie's lead stood at 6-0.
Nyberg allowed just an infield single in the final three innings to seal the win and send the Flyers to the state quarterfinals unblemished in playoff play.
"This was the biggest one for us, because if you drop into the one-loss bracket now, it's almost impossible to recover," Messerly said. "We have a lot of confidence in that we know we can beat these bigger teams from up north because we do in the (preseason) Sunshine Tournament."
Dixie, 19-5, plays Cyprus at 4:30 p.m. next Tuesday in the 4A Quarterfinals at Kearns High School.
The Tigers, 15-9, drop to the one-loss lower bracket and will play Box Elder Monday at 4:30 p.m. also at Kearns.