HIGHLAND The second-guessers in the crowd Wednesday certainly had plenty to buzz about when the Lone Peak Knights, trailing by one in top of the sixth, decided to walk Bingham No. 3 hitter Brock Whitney to get to Miners' clean-up hitter Nate Rasmussen.
One who is not questioning the decision, however, is Rasmussen who made the Knights pay for the free pass to Whitney by belting a two-out three-run homer to left-center field on a low fastball from Lone Peak starter Daniel Sechrest on a 1-2 count to send the Miners on to a 8-6 win.
"I'd walk him too," Rasmussen said. "(Whitney's) beat a lot of teams this year and they weren't going to let him beat them. Fortunately, I just happened to get the right pitch in the right spot."
Actually, Whitney also contributed significantly to Bingham's come-from-behind win to advance in the winner's bracket of the 5A baseball playoffs. After the Miners took a 5-4 lead with a manufactured run in the top of the fifth, Whitney came on in relief of Rasmussen in the bottom half to retire the Knights in order. Then, after Rasmussen's big blast in the sixth, Whitney gave up a lead-off homer in the sixth to Lone Peak's Kade Andrus but then retired three more straight.
But Whitney saved his real clutch pitching for the home-half of the seventh. Trailing 8-5, Lone Peak loaded the bases with one out. Whitney first needed to dispose of Knights' No. 3 hitter Adam Kelsch, a big home run threat who already had a double, a single and two RBIs in the game. Kelsch hit a deep sacrifice fly to left field to score one.
Next was Andrus, who homered an inning earlier, doubled off of the center-field fence in the third and hit two out of the park in Lone Peak's win on Tuesday. Andrus swung and missed a low curve. He then grounded the 0-1 pitch to short to end the game on a force out at second.
"Those are the kinds of situations you dream about since being a kid, having the game on the line and ball in your hands," Whitney said. "Fortunately, (Andrus) didn't jack another one out on me and I was able to get him to roll one over."
Bingham did most of its damage by playing textbook small ball, using bunts and steals to advance and score runners. The Miners also capitalized on a few defensive lapses by the Knights.
Bingham took a 2-1 lead in the second with two runs on only one hit. The Miners put two runners on with a single by Vincent Giron and an errant throw on a sacrifice bunt. A grounder to short by Cory Raymond pushed the first across, but the second scored on a grounder back to the mound. The Knights actually had Giron nailed at the plate, but the ball came loose on the play at the plate.
Lone Peak came back to tie the game 2-2 in the bottom half on a solo homer by Sechrest, and the Knights then took a 4-2 lead on RBI singles in the third by Kelsch and Dillon Robinson. But Bingham tied the game in the fourth with two more runs on a walk, a double by Wade Anderson and another Lone Peak error. Bingham took the lead for good in the fifth with a run on a walk, wild pitch, sacrifice bunt and squeeze bunt by Raymond.Bingham moves on to face Timpanogos on Tuesday. Lone Peak will play Region 4 rival Spanish Fork on Monday in the one-loss bracket.