Mike Terry, Deseret News
Timpanogos' Jordan Cooper is congratulated after scoring a run in a win over Bingham on Tuesday.

OREM — Timpanogos pitcher Rhett Nelson is peaking at the perfect time.

In his past three starts, all critical games for the Timberwolves, he's been as reliable on the bump as any hurler in the state.

In a 10-0 shutout of Spanish Fork the final week of the regular season the junior righty gave up six harmless hits. In the T-Wolves' 13-1 first-round playoff win over Viewmont last week he surrendered only four hits.

He pitched just as sharp Tuesday in Timpanogos' 9-3 win over Bingham in the winners' bracket of the 5A state baseball playoffs. In limiting the Miners to very few scoring chances, Nelson again gave up only four hits and struck out five for his third straight complete-game victory.

"There's three clutch games in a row where he's pitched very well for us," Timpanogos coach Kim Nelson (no relation) said.

Actually, Nelson is the T-Wolves' No. 2 pitcher, which is why his outstanding pitching of late has been especially vital. Ace Gentry Croft has been nursing a muscle injury in his back the past three weeks and hasn't been 100 percent. Thanks to Nelson, however, the T-Wolves haven't missed a beat and are now one of only two teams left in the tournament without a loss.

"It's been a big, big lift for us to have Rhett step up and look to provide some leadership for us and then do it," coach Nelson said.

Tuesday, Nelson consistently got ahead of Bingham's hitters and had the Miners looking off-balanced on several swings. He was at his best whenever Bingham did get a runner on base. Also, all five of his strikeouts ended an inning.

"He's got good stuff. He's a good pitcher. He's going to pitch somewhere after high school," the T-Wolves coach said.

None of Bingham's three runs came via a hit. The first scored on a throwing error in the first, the second scored on a wild pitch and the third scored on a ground ball to short.

On Timpanogos' offensive side, the T-Wolves got the most out of their opportunities — scoring nine runs on only nine hits. Despite starting off slowly, the T-Wolves broke loose with four runs in the third — all of which came with two outs — to go up for good.

Grant Jimenez got it going with a two-run single up the middle. Mitch Foster followed with an RBI single to center, and Jordan Mehlhoff finished the rally with a run-scoring double into the left-field corner.

"Especially early, to get us going, there were some really key two-out RBIs," coach Nelson said.

An inning later Brett Lopez delivered a two-run single up the middle to give Timpanogos a 6-1 lead. Still, the Miners stayed within reach with two runs, without a hit, in the fifth. But three T-Wolves runs in the sixth, two scoring on wild pitches and Jordan Cooper knocking in the third put them comfortably in front.

Nelson took care of matters from there by retiring six of the final seven batters he faced. The one who reach base did so on a dropped fly ball.


E-mail: jimr@desnews.com