This was a hard fought game against an amazing Tabiona team. This game was a battle of attrition. —Valley coach Joseph Sorensen
ST. GEORGE — A routine high, fly ball to center field off the bat of Tabiona's Reno Humphrey in the bottom of the 7th-inning seemed to stay in the air long enough for each team to imagine the possibilities: drop in, be dropped, or yes — even be caught. The only thing for certain was that at the end of the play, the not-so-routine game would be over, one way or the other.
The opposing hopes of both teams seemed to help that fly ball stay in the air a bit longer but, in the end, the story reads that Tabiona's Humphrey flew out to center field and the Valley Buffalo held on, survived and eked out a 4-3 victory in a 1A boys state tournament semifinal game at Bruce Hurst Field Friday afternoon.
"This was a hard fought game against an amazing Tabiona team," said Valley coach Joseph Sorensen. "This game was a battle of attrition."
Attrition meaning one good pitcher after another, after another, from both squads.
Sorensen referred to winning pitcher Jake Spencers effort as "gutsy." Spencer gave up singles in each of the first two innings. In the second, a throwing error and a walk led to runners at first and third, but a nifty throw to short on a steal led to a run-down of the runner at third to end the inning.
In the top of the third, Valley's Kobe Shatto knocked in two runs with a triple to deep right-center, then scored on a wild pitch for a 3-run inning.
Spencer retired three in a row in the bottom of the inning and Valley had a 3-0 lead after three.
The game changed that fast in favor of Tabiona.
After striking out the first batter, Spencer gave up a double and a walk. An error loaded the bases with one out. Spencer walked in a run, then an infield hit scored another, and suddenly the game was 4-2. A brilliant line drive catch and double-play ended the inning, and Valley had survived the rally.
After a couple of walks in the bottom of the 6th, Spencer was relieved by Wyatt Cox, who struck out the last two batters of the inning, but not before giving up a run to pull Tabiona within one at 4-3.
Hogan held Valley in the top of the 7th and Tabiona led off the bottom of the inning with an infield hit. After the runner advanced to 2nd base on a groundout, Shatto came in to relieve Cox. A walk and a strike out later, Humphrey, who came to bat with two on and two out, worked the count to 3-2 before delivering the high fly ball to center which ended the game.
"I had a lot going on in my head," said Spencer. "I decided to try to throw a lot of strikes, though I got hot and tired."
"Cox pitched a lot of strikes and was strong to get us through the bottom of their inning," said Sorensen. "Shatto is our ace and did his job."
Shatto will probably pitch in the championship game against Wayne at noon Saturday at Bruce Hurst Field.