KEARNS — Just being asked to pitch against a team that reportedly thrives on what he throws best gave Logan junior Chase Nelson a little more confidence heading into his team's must-win playoff game at Kearns High on Monday.
“Coach told me that yesterday,” said Nelson of scouting reports that said Woods Cross thrived on his best pitch — the fastball — after Logan beat the Wildcats 7-2 in the one-loss bracket of the 4A baseball tournament. “And he decided to go with me, so that shows me that he has confidence in me, which was a boost as well.”
Both Nelson and Logan head coach Mike Hansen knew the key to defensive success against Woods Cross would be the left-hander’s ability to throw some off-speed pitches.
”I made sure when I was warming up, not even in the bullpen, just playing catch and warming up, making sure that my curveball and things were coming out of my hand correctly. I even threw a few change-ups. And three were working, and I was able to locate them, so that was really good.”
Nelson threw an impressive game, allowing just two hits and striking out nine batters.
“Wow,” he said when informed of his two-hitter. “It was a good one. The two runs is a bummer, but you can’t walk the lead-off batter. That’s great. I didn’t know that. It’s pretty cool.”
Hansen said it reminded him of how the team was playing when it was rolling in region play.
“He had that look in his eye, and the key, I thought, today was — he’s always competitive; that’s just what Chase does — but his off-speed was so much better than the last couple of outings he’s had,” said Hansen. “That was a really big key — his change-up and curveball.”
Monday's playoff games at Gates Field were delayed several hours because of rain, so Logan's 1:30 p.m. start time became a 6 p.m. start.
“It was crazy,” said Nelson. “It was a fun day as a whole, to come down and chill with the guys, I enjoyed it. But the win was great. It was a great all-around effort. We got some clutch hits, put some offensive support for me and then I went out and threw some strikes and caught some breaks. It was a good day, and I feel very lucky.”
In the third inning, it was Nelson who helped himself with a single that drove in teammate Brayden Richardson, who got on base with a walk. Nelson’s hit sparked a two-out rally that ended with Hart’s two-RBI single.
Defensively, the team was nearly flawless, with shortstop Isaac Rhea making the only fielding error when he bobbled a hit from Woods Cross' Brady Cowley. He more than made up for it the next batter when he caught a line drive and then threw Cowley out as he tried to get back to first. Rhea then caught a fly deep in left field for the inning’s final out.
Nelson said he didn’t feel like he had to “redeem” himself after his team's Mountain View loss in the first round of the tournament.
“It was win or die, so I didn’t think about that,” he said. “But that Mountain View one was tough. ... We live to play another day.”
Nelson and Hansen said if the Grizzlies hope to continue to compete in the tournament, they need to do more of what they did Monday.
“We have to have one-through-nine production,” the coach said. “We know we’ve got a couple of kids in there that we’ve relied on pretty heavily, but we need that production that we got, and we need a couple of new guys to step up. And obviously you have to play error-free ball.”
“It’s just do or die," Nelson added. "Every at-bat counts, every run, every hitter, the whole team has got to come out and perform. It’s just a pressure on the team as a whole, but I think we’re ready for it. We’ll see what we can do (Tuesday). It will be fun.”
Logan will play Murray at Kearns High School at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.