SPANISH FORK — For a school in just its third year of existence, and one that's located in a peaceful, quiet Utah County community, the Maple Mountain baseball team sure is making plenty of noise thus far this season.
The Golden Eagles soared to their ninth straight win and ran their sparkling overall record to 13-2 with a 4-3 Region 8 victory over Timpanogos on Thursday afternoon.
Maple Mountain senior southpaw Nick Van Wagoner went the distance, allowing just five hits and only one earned run while striking out eight Timpanogos batters as the Golden Eagles ran their region record to 4-0.
After the Timberwolves touched him for two runs in the second inning on a double by Tanner Perkins, an error and a sacrifice fly by C.J. Schroeppel, Van Wagoner pitched his way out of a bases-loaded situation in the third and then notched six of his strikeouts over the next three innings, fanning the side in the sixth.
"He's a funny kid," Maple Mountain coach Gary Miner said of Van Wagoner, who ran his season record to 5-0 with an incredibly impressive earned-run average of 0.98 — one of three Golden Eagle starters with an ERA south of 2.00. "We have to come over here before a ballgame and stand and just say 'Nope, just keep going,' because he gets better with work, and he tends to struggle a little bit in the early innings just 'til he finds that groove a little bit.
"He's done fantastic all year long, but that's fairly typical of him," Minor said. "That's his nature; he kind of gets a rhythm of the game and that helps him with his pitch locations and pitch selections."
Timpanogos (6-7, 2-2 Region 8) threatened in the seventh when Maxwell Hill was hit by a pitch — Van Wagoner plunked four T-Wolve hitters on the day — and eventually came around and scored on a throwing error.
But Van Wagoner closed the door with a game-ending groundout, giving the Golden Eagles their second win in three days over their cross-county and region rivals.
"It felt good," he said. "I was focusing on my rotation and the way that I followed through, and I felt like it worked out for me pretty good so I just stayed consistent with it. After a couple of innings, I'm usually at the top of my game.
"I was confident (in the seventh) that we could pull it together as a team and work together and finish the game."
Maple Mountain scored two runs in the first on Braxton Jacobson's RBI single and Nik Mafi's run-scoring groundout. After Timpanogos tied it up in the second, things stayed deadlocked at 2-2 until the fifth inning when Jacobson led off with a sharp single up the middle. After a walk, the Timberwolves got a double play that had them an out away from ending the inning.
But McKay Nelson popped a sinking fly ball to right field that fell in for a double to bring Jacobson home, and Arik Mack then drilled a ground-rule double to the fence in left-center that scored Nelson and made it 4-2. Despite a little uneasiness when the Timberwolves had the potential tying and go-ahead runs on base in the seventh, Van Wagoner wouldn't let the Eagles down.
Jonah Flinders was 3-for-4 for Maple Mountain, while Jacobson was 2-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored and Mack went 2-for-3 with an RBI. For Timpanogos, Schroeppel had a double and an RBI, Perkins also doubled and McKay Swope sliced a leadoff triple in the third inning but got stranded at third base by Van Wagoner and Maple Mountain's solid defensive effort.
"We're very pleased that the kids are believing in themselves," Miner said. "... We haven't done this before, we're a new program, but ... the boys are doing a fantastic job of getting a lot of confidence in what they do, and they should — they're playing fantastic."