KEARNS There is no baseball term to describe how Preston Olson clinched the American Legion state championship for Taylorsville on Saturday.
With his team's game against Cyprus tied in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Pirates attempted to intentionally walk Olson. Three straight balls were thrown to him. On the fourth pitch, though, Olson took matters into his own hands.
Cyprus pitcher Zak Kilpatrick got a pitch too close to the strike zone and Olson took a chance on it. The 6-foot-5 righty pulled it over the left-field fence, hitting a three-run homer to give the Warriors a 9-6 victory and the state championship.
Call it an intentional walk-off home run.
"I was shocked," said Taylorsville third baseman Nic Johnston. "I was just waiting for him (Kilpatrick) to throw another ball. Next thing I know he (Olson) was trotting the bases. It was awesome."
The scene at Oquirrh Park somewhat resembled how Kelly Leak made contact with an attempted intentional-walk pitch in the original "Bad News Bears" movie. Only this time, Olson's ball went completely over the fence, giving his team and fans a joyous ending.
Olson said he actually got the idea of swinging at the intentional-walk pitch from seeing it done once in a Little League baseball game.
"I still can't believe it," said Olson, the obvious winner of the state tournament's MVP award. "I was looking for anything. It was a good pitch to hit and I put a good swing on it."
The home run redeemed Olson after he struggled on the mound in the eighth and ninth innings. He relieved starter Tyler Curtis in the eighth and allowed Cyprus to tie the game at 4-4 on a wild pitch. In the ninth, he hit the first two batters he faced and gave up two runs, putting Taylorsville in a hole for one of the few times in the tournament.
It looked like Cyprus was going to force a second and true championship game. Instead, the stage was just set for more Taylorsville Magic.
Zane Pulver reached base on an error to lead off the ninth, and Jeff Pratt hit an infield single. After a sacrifice bunt by Austin Maddy moved each of them over a base, Cyprus took a chance on pitching to Johnston, who earned the Top Hitter award in the tournament. Johnston slapped an outside pitch to left field, scoring both Pulver and Pratt to tie the game.
Many people were surprised to see Johnston pitched to with an open base, and none more than Johnston himself.
"I thought for sure I was getting walked," he said. "I got lucky I even got a pitch to hit."
Alex Newman singled after Johnston. Olson followed with his stunning blast.
"Warrior Magic," said Olson. "That's what it was."
The victory gives the Warriors a berth in the American Legion western regional in Surprise, Ariz. The regional begins on Aug. 14.
Taylorsville is a combined team of graduated players from Taylorsville and Riverton. After playing against each other for several years, the guys from each program came together and thrived all summer. They won the Valley League championship before sweeping through the state tournament. The only team to challenge the Warriors in the postseason was Cyprus, which lost to Taylorsville by one run in the winners' bracket final on Wednesday.
E-mail: [email protected]