OREM With a group of nine seniors that doesn't know what it is like to walk off the field at the end of the season with a loss, the Cottonwood Colts had to put their fate in the hands of a sophomore who had nearly no varsity experience.
Derrick Pitts proved they were capable hands. He got the Colts started, throwing 3 1/3 innings and giving up only two runs to help lead Cottonwood to a 6-2 win over Dixie.
"I was nervous," said Pitts about when coach Jon Hoover told him he was getting the starting nod. "I had never thrown in such an important game. I just wanted to go out and give my team a chance. I have great teammates behind me that supported me all the way, so I knew I just needed to throw strikes."
The left-hander had thrown exactly one varsity inning before the Colts' 4A championship game against Dixie Saturday night at UVSC. But with Cottonwood having to win three games in two days to capture its fourth consecutive state title, the bullpen was simply running out of arms.
Pitts struck out four and walked five. He also got that help he was looking for from his defense. After two walks and a single loaded the bases in the bottom of the first with no outs, Dixie's Nate Carter hit a fly ball to right field. Austin Robbs made the catch and fired home in time to get the runner trying to tag.
"I was just trying to do whatever I could to help out my teammate," said 4A tournament MVP Robbs. "It was one of the better throws I've made, and I think it helped calm down Derrick."
Dixie scored on an RBI single from Dallen Reber, but Robbs again swung the momentum back to Cottonwood. In the top of the second, he hammered a ball over the left-field wall to tie it at 1-1. Robbs was instrumental in Cottonwood even being in the title contest. Besides getting the game-winning hit the day before against Springville in extra innings, he had the go-ahead RBIs with a two-run single in the morning's game against Dixie that forced the night cap.
"I can't say enough about how he stepped up," said Hoover of his right fielder. "He is just a tremendous baseball player."
Cottonwood came through in the clutch. The Colts scored one in the fourth on a Robbs' RBI double. They added two runs in the sixth on Austin Wadsworth's and Corie Sullivan's run-scoring singles, and Ryan Thomas added insurance with a two-run single in the seventh.
Dixie simply couldn't get the hits it needed in tight situations. The Flyers stranded 15 base runners in the Colts' 6-1 win in the morning, and 13 more in the finale.
"I think we come up with those big-time plays because we prepare so hard all year that it is something we can come up with when it matters," said Thomas. "We work harder than anyone else so we play better when it counts the most."
Sophomore Desmond Poulson also redeemed himself from a sub-par state tournament. After being the staff ace in the regular season with a 6-1 record and 1.84 ERA, he had struggled after an injury left him out of the first week of the playoffs. He threw 3 2/3 innings of relief and picked up the win. He gave up three hits and no runs while striking out three.After a 3-7 start to the season, Cottonwood walked off the field with its fourth straight title. Now, the only question will be can it make it to No. 5?
4A All-Tournament team
MVP: Austin Robbs, Cottonwood
Zach Adams, Cottonwood
Kyle Beverley, Cottonwood
Ryan Thomas, Cottonwood
Chunner Nyberg, Dixie
Stephen Nelson, Dixie
Ben Doxey, Springville
Taylor Jones, Cyprus
Nate Adamson, Orem