KEARNS The Cyprus baseball program is known for its tenacity, scrappiness, and as it reads on the back of the shirts the coaches and players wear under their game jerseys, a "Never Say Die" attitude.
The program is also known for one play it brings out for special occasions, and there was no better time to dust off the delayed double steal when Cyprus' Legion team trailed the Spartans by two runs in the sixth inning in the first round of the American Legion state tournament on Saturday.
With no outs in the sixth, Cody Butler, on third, waited for Austin Shakespear, on first, to break toward the second-base bag. Their timing couldn't have been better, as Shakespear made it safely to second, Butler scored, and the game's momentum was on Cyprus' side for the first time in the game.
Cyprus then exploded for five more runs in the sixth, defeating the Spartans 8-4 to stay in the winners' bracket in the state tournament. Cyprus will play Murray, a longtime rival, in the winners' bracket on Monday. The Spartans, a team composed of graduated players from Murray and Olympus, will play Roy in the losers' bracket.
Murray and Olympus both play in Cyprus' region. There's no doubt that the opposing players have seen the delayed double steal executed by the Pirates in the past, but they were helpless against it on Saturday.
"It works," Shakespear said. "In a tight, close game we got some stuff in our pocket we can do that the other teams don't really know about. Both teams have been in our region forever. We do it to death on them and they still don't know how to defend it."
The Spartans had been in control of Saturday's game until the delayed double steal. Chris Grandinetti crushed a three-run double in the third inning off of Cyprus ace Taylor Jones, and pitcher Ryan Matson kept Cyprus in check until the sixth. Matson, perhaps the smallest player on the diamond in Saturday's game, battled hard until wearing down in the sixth.
"He just competed, plain and simple," said Cyprus coach Brooks Jones. "He got tired and we got lucky. We got a rally going."
Butler got the rally going by getting hit by a pitch to lead off the sixth. Cyprus' first seven batters reached base in the inning, and Brock Moltz had the game-winning RBI single. Nolan Billings, Jones and Zak Kilpatrick also drove in some insurance runs.
Cyprus is missing some key components from its high school team that took second place in Region 6. But as it showed on Saturday, the never-say-die attitude is alive and well.
"I think deep down we're tough, and sometimes we feel like that helps us in the later innings plain and simple," said Brooks Jones. "We're not as talented, not as big (as some of the other teams), but we just try to grind it out and be tough."
In other first-round action:
KEARNS 7, BLACKSMITH FORK 3: Josh Higbee was the winning pitcher for Kearns in its upset win over the Northern League champions, and he also chipped in an RBI single in Kearns' five-run fourth inning. Major Smith doubled for Kearns.
TOOELE 6, TAYLORSVILLE U17 5: Matt Medina hit a triple and a double to lead Tooele to an upset victory in the first round. Tooele held off a late Taylorsville rally and earned the win when J.R. Rodriguez and Medina turned a game-ending double play.
CEDAR CITY 9, BOX ELDER 3: Jordan Jenkins threw a complete game and hit a two-run home run in the seventh to lead Cedar City.
SMITHFIELD 3, HELPER 2: Darin Toone led off Smithfield's two-run sixth with a double to spark his team's offense. Tyson Thompson threw the seventh and picked up the save for the Aztecs.
GRANTSVILLE 8, UINTAH 6: Tyson Hutchins hit two doubles and scored two runs to lead Grantsville, which took control of the game with four runs in the sixth.
TAYLORSVILLE 17, LOGAN 3: Nick Johnston nailed a homer while Tyler Curtis earned the win for Taylorsville.
MURRAY 15, ROY 4: Nate Davis threw a complete game and went 3-for-3 from the plate for Murray.
American Legion State Tournament
At Oquirrh Park, Kearns
Kearns vs. Grantsville, 4 p.m.
Tooele vs. Taylorsville, 5 p.m.
Cyprus vs. Murray, 7 p.m.
Smithfield vs. Cedar City, 8 p.m.
Uintah vs. Blacksmith Fork, 10 a.m.
Helper vs. Box Elder 11 a.m.
Spartans vs. Roy, 1 p.m.
Taylorsville U17 vs. Logan, 2 p.m.