Our defense has definitely improved. Just today — I didn't strike out as many batters as I usually do — but guys behind me stepped up to make plays for us. —Timpanogos pitcher Derik Eaquinto

OREM — When Derik Eaquinto takes the mound with his best stuff, Timpanogos proves to be a tough out for anyone.

The junior lefty pitched a full game on Wednesday, during the Timberwolves' 5-0 win over Springville in the second round of the 4A state playoffs, with just about every pitch working well for him.

"That's the best my arm has felt for a long time. It felt awesome," Eaquinto said. "I was using my fastball well — spotting it and it had good movement today and my curveball was definitely keeping people off-balance."

Eaquinto gave up just three hits — all of them singles while striking out five over seven innings pitched. His strikeout number was relatively low for him, but pitching to contact allowed for those behind him to make good plays.

"Our defense has definitely improved," Eaquinto said. "Just today — I didn't strike out as many batters as I usually do — but guys behind me stepped up to make plays for us."

Leading up to Wednesday's game, it hadn't been all smooth sailing for Eaquinto. An arm injury incurred last summer forced Timpanogos coach Kim Nelson to be cautious with Eaquinto, in terms of innings and pitches thrown, over the course of the season.

"It's been frustrating at times, but I trust Coach and it's worked out," Eaquinto said. "I felt this was definitely my best performance of the year so far."

Few balls were hit hard by the Red Devils, let alone left the infield, as Eaquinto showed confidence on the mound throughout.

"He really mixed up his pitches well and kept them off-balance," Nelson said. "Last time I checked my math, the number zero is tough to beat, if that's all you're giving up. So yeah, when he's pitching like that — it's a very good thing for us, obviously."

Helping out from the plate were Josh Edmonds and Casey Hamilton, who had back-to-back RBI singles in the bottom of the second — giving Timpanogos an early 2-0 lead. Hamilton then topped off a 2-run effort in the fourth with an RBI double to give his team a 4-0 lead.

"He's been a very hot hitter for us and we need it," Nelson said of Hamilton's performance. "We need a couple of others along the way, too."

Other RBI hits came from Cal Beardsley and Conner Halford.

Springville did show some life in the bottom of the seventh, with consecutive singles presenting runners on first and second with only one out, before Eaquinto dug in to finish things off. According to Nelson, his pitcher threw close to 100 pitches — the most he's thrown so far this year, by far.

With the win, Timpanogos advances to the quarterfinal round of the no-loss bracket and will take on the winner of Maple Mountain vs. Murray. With the loss, Springville is bounced down to the one-loss bracket.