KEARNS Coming into the seventh inning and trailing 3-2, the Dixie players never had a doubt they would get the runs necessary to beat Cyprus in the winners bracket semifinals of the 4A state baseball tournament.
"We never stopped believing we were going to get some hits," said junior center fielder Kimball Nelson. "We have been a good hitting team all year, and we knew that we had put on some good swings already and things were going to fall our way."
Things went the Flyers' way as Nelson provided the biggest hit with a single that pushed across the tying and go-ahead runs. Dixie continued to pour it on, scoring four more times to pick up an 8-3 win.
"The guys asked me if we should maybe take a pitch or what their approach should be," said Dixie coach Jeff Messerly of the strategy going into the seventh-inning rally. "I told them to just play baseball. If he threw it down Broadway, then to go ahead and put a good swing on it. We had hit some balls pretty hard earlier and they just went right to them, so it was about time the averages caught up for us."
Cyprus starter Taylor Jones had kept the Dixie offense in check for the first six innings, allowing only runs in the fourth inning and three hits. But the Flyers found a rhythm in the seventh. Starting pitcher Chunner Nyberg led off with a single. After an error and a strikeout, the next five hitters had a base knock. Damien Culver singled before Kimball Nelson had his two-run single. Mitch Mantle singled, and the older Nelson brother, Stephen, had a two-run double. Nate Carter capped the rally with an RBI single.
Nyberg has thrown in big games before. He was the winning pitcher in Dixie's state championship game as a freshman, and last season as a sophomore he got the win in the winner's bracket finals to put his team in the championship game. So to see him throw a complete game to get the win was almost expected.
"He has been there for us all year," said Messerly. "We know what we are going to get with him out there."
The Flyers' ace had an uncharacteristic struggle finding the plate in the second inning. He walked four out of five batters, and Jordan Ikari had a run-scoring single against him. Ikari also had the Pirates' other RBI in the fourth on a double before he settled down and kept his team in it to set up the seventh inning heroics.
"I think that is the worst I have thrown all year," Nyberg said, "but I just kept trying to battle and find the zone. I finally settled down and was able to find the plate and got in a little bit of a zone."The Flyers move to the winners bracket finals on Thursday at UVSC. Cyprus plays today at Gates Field on the campus of Kearns.
E-mail: [email protected]