Jason Olson, Deseret News
Dixie's Stephen Nelson is greeted by his teammates after blasting a grand slam home run Thursday.

OREM — It all changed with one swing of the bat.

Dixie's Stephen Nelson hit a grand-slam home run in the third inning to give the Flyers a one-run lead over Cottonwood in the winner's bracket finals of the 4A baseball tournament Thursday. That one ball flying over the wall not only changed the lead — and the momentum — but also the whole attitude and belief for the Region 9 champions.

"It was important to get that lead," said Dixie coach Jeff Messerly. "We were putting some pretty good swings on, but you could see when that happened that they really started to believe we could win that game."

Dixie rode its momentum and added six runs in the sixth inning. The Flyers posted a 10-3 win over the defending champion Colts in wet and sloppy conditions at UVSC Thursday afternoon.

Cottonwood entered the game as a three-time defending state champion and riding a 14-game winning streak in the playoffs. It looked like that streak might continue after Ryan Thomas hit a two-run homer in the first inning and Eric Doi added an RBI single in the second for a 3-0 lead.

But the tide turned in the third. Jesse Nyberg and Kimball Nelson singled. Starting pitcher Mitch Mantle was hit by a pitch, setting up the bases-loaded situation for Stephen Nelson, who blasted the pitch well over 400 feet to left field.

"We were hitting the ball. We weren't striking out, but that just put us over the top," said Stephen Nelson. "That just let everybody know we really can do it. We can beat those guys."

Mantle got the surprise start for the Flyers, but his good pitching didn't come as a shock at all to his coach.

"We decided to start him last night but didn't tell him until this morning," said Messerly. "He just lets it go. He did a great job, and I can't say enough about Mitch. He persevered."

Mantle kept the potent Colts' lineup in check after the second inning. He threw all 6 1/3 innings — the game was called two outs short of the full seven because the constant rain finally made the field unplayable — and scattered six hits with four strikeouts and two walks.

"It took me a bit to get into a rhythm, but I finally got my curve and my splitter (split-fingered fastball) going," said Mantle. "I just wanted to try to throw it where they couldn't hit it."

Dixie scored six runs to ice the game in the top of the sixth, as Kimball Nelson had an RBI single, Stephen Nelson and Nate Carter each walked with the bases loaded to bring in two more runs, and Dallen Reber hit a three-run triple off the center-field wall.

The Flyers' win advances them to the championship game, which has yet to be determined when it will be played. The weather canceled the other three games scheduled to be played on Thursday, and the UHSAA had to reschedule them for today, meaning the title games for both 4A and 5A will be played either on Saturday or after the Memorial Day weekend on Tuesday.


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