OREM — In a 5A first-round loss last week, Cottonwood pitcher Hunter Smith just never felt comfortable on the mound. His shoulder was opening up early, and he just didn’t have the command he needed against a quality team like Bingham.
On Monday at UVU, that wasn’t an issue at all.
In a 5A elimination game against Davis, Smith worked from ahead in the count most of the day, earning an impressive 10-0 shutout victory in six innings.
“I figured some stuff out that I was struggling with my last game,” said Smith. “I didn’t feel like my best at first, but later in the game I was feeling a lot better and better.”
Cottonwood coach Jason Crawford was particularly impressed with how the junior pitched following a big inning from the Colts.
“Every time we scored he had a shut-down inning. That’s the big thing we focus on,” said Crawford.
That was particularly important early in the game. After Cottonwood scored three in the top of the first, Smith blanked Davis in the bottom of the first. When the Colts increased the lead to 5-0 in the top of the second, Smith again shut down the Darts.
He did that four times on Monday as Cottonwood lived to play another day.
“Just fight to live another day. I told them last week Davis is a good team and we had to elevate our level of play, and today they did that and hopefully we can do that again tomorrow,” said Crawford.
With the win, Cottonwood advances to face region foe Alta on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. at UVU.
Davis’ defensive struggles were just as instrumental to Cottonwood’s quick start.
Shapiro reached base safely to open the game after his high-chopper to first wasn’t fielded cleanly. Two batters later he came around to score for the 1-0 lead after Jake Atkinson’s liner to right field was misjudged. Two batters later, Dylan Cooley increased the lead to 3-0 with a two-run single up the middle.
“We were trying to be aggressive early in the count. We had heard that (Davis pitcher Zach Fuller is) a strike thrower, so we tried to make sure we did our part and put pressure on them. It looks like it worked today,” said Crawford.
In the second inning, Cottonwood capitalized on three walks and a wild pitch to increase the lead to 5-0.
Davis had opportunities to respond in each of the first two innings, but base-running mistakes proved costly. In the first inning, Fuller was thrown out at third base after rounding the bag and then slipping following a double by Bronson Larsen.
After getting out of some early jams, Cottonwood’s ace only allowed two hits over the next four innings, setting up a showdown with Alta.
“I’m excited. We’re going to go after them. It’s not going to be easy game, I can tell you that. We want it more than anyone else,” said Smith.