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He was able to throw three pitches for strikes, he worked out of a couple of jams. He just has a loose arm, and it’s deceptive and firm, and he just competes. —Cottonwood coach Jason Crawford on Porter Hodge

SANDY — One of the main things Cottonwood coach Jason Crawford talks with his players about is, “effort, effort, effort. If you have it, you have a chance to win.”

His players were reminded of the importance of effort in Tuesday’s opening game of the big Region 7 series with Jordan.

Cade Perkins’ hustle down the second base line on what should’ve been a routine third out led to a big two-out rally in the third inning, and that was all the scoring the Colts needed as the top-ranked team in 5A prevailed 5-1.

“If Cade doesn’t give a great effort, that inning’s over and we lose 1-0. The opportunity of running the bases the right way led to us having a big inning,” said Crawford.

Five runs was more than enough run support for starter Porter Hodge as he struck out five batters in 6 2/3 innings to improve to 5-0 this season. He’s become the ace that Crawford challenged him to be this season.

“One of our preseason challenges to him was to actually repeat like (Hayden) Rosenkrantz did last season, to know what we’re going to get from him every outing. And to this point he’s done that,” said Crawford.

Rosenkrantz led Cottonwood to the 5A state title last season and was named 5A MVP. On Tuesday, Hodge looked the part in a near complete-game win.

“He was able to throw three pitches for strikes, he worked out of a couple of jams. He just has a loose arm, and it’s deceptive and firm, and he just competes,” said Crawford.

Hodge reached his pitch count with two outs in the seventh inning after Jordan’s Noah Hennings and Hunter Swapp hit back-to-back singles. Carson Angeroth came on and got the one-out save to preserve the win.

The ’Diggers got on the board first with a Gage Carson RBI single in the first inning, and with ace Gage Edwards on the mound one run is sometimes all the run support he needs.

It might’ve been had it not been for Perkins’ hustle after his two-out single in the third. Dylan Reiser followed with a slow grounder to short, and Jordan’s shortstop initially tried getting the force at second base. Once he realized Perkins would beat the throw, he quickly turned and tried to get the runner at first, but his rushed throw was off the mark.

Daniel Gonzalez and Dalton Hodge followed with back-to-back infield RBI singles to give Cottonwood the 2-1 lead. Ross Dunn then stretched the lead to 5-1 as he smashed a three-run homer over the left-field wall.

It’s good thing Cottonwood hit Edwards hard in the third inning, because he only allowed one base runner over the last four innings, including a stretch where he struck out six straight batters.

“This is the one we had circled on our calendar. I know this is my most stressful week as a coach. Winning Game 1 helps, but we have to find a way to come back out and do it tomorrow,” said Crawford.