ST. GEORGE – Desert Hills overcame a fielding miscue that created a 3-0 deficit to rally for a 6-3 win Monday night over Salem Hills in eight innings in the state 4A semifinals at Bruce Hurst Field.
"We were down, but nobody was giving up," said Thunder relief pitcher Lance Kinross. "We just got to the dugout and we were all picking each other up, trying to get back one batter at a time."
With a berth in the state championship game on the line and in a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth, Salem Hills slugger Sawyer Radke hit a deep fly to left-center field. With the bases loaded and the runners going, Radke's deep fly ball was dangerous, but manageable.
However, the two Desert Hills outfielders converged on the fly ball at the warning track and looked at each other as the high fly landed inexplicably between them. Three runs scored on the play and the Skyhawks looked like they might be headed to the title game with ace Kade Hancock dominating on the mound.
"We were down, but not out," Desert Hills first baseman Bronson Andrus said. "There was still a lot of baseball left, and this is a team of fighters, battlers."
Salem Hills loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the fifth, but Kinross recorded back-to-back strikeouts to keep it a 3-1 game.
"I'm really good at throwing strikes, pretty consistent, so I didn't get nervous," Kinross said. "I just tried to throw strikes because I knew my defense would back me up."
In the top of the sixth, the Thunder were able to even up the score with a mini rally. Blake Milne singled and then stole second. He scored on an RBI double down the third-base line by Landon Levine. The next batter, Reber, then knotted the score at 3-3 with an RBI single to right field.
Neither team scored in the seventh, forcing the game into an extra frame.
In the top of the eighth, Andrus, who had been 0 for 2 in the game, whacked the first pitch he saw deep over the SHHS center fielder's head and off the wall. The speedy Andrus never slowed down around second and slid into third base with a leadoff triple.
"I had struggled a bit at the plate in the game, but I was just thinking down-the-middle and I got a pitch I could drive," Andrus said. "That play at third was closer than I thought, it was really close. I'm just glad I was safe."
Andrus scored moments later on a Salem Hills wild pitch to give Desert Hills its first lead of the game.
Milne and Levine also scored in the eighth and Kinross slammed the door in the bottom of the inning to clinch the win for the Thunder.
"I'm still riding high right now," Kinross said. "Later tonight, I'll get my mind right and be ready for tomorrow."
Defense was one of the keys to the game, with Desert Hills committing no defensive errors and Salem Hills committing four miscues. The Thunder also got two hits apiece from Levine and Reber.
The win propels D-Hills into Tuesday's 11 a.m. 4A title game, where the Thunder will face fellow Region 9 foe Dixie. The Flyers beat Desert Hills 1-0 in last year's 4A championship game and finished one game ahead of the Thunder in Region 9 this season.Comment on this story
The 4A tournament was supposed to be played at Lindquist Field in Ogden, but weather forced a change in venue and a relocation to St. George. It was sunny and in the mid-60s for most of the game Monday evening.
Earlier in the day, Dixie eliminated Spanish Fork 8-1, with B.B. Blanchard recording three hits at the plate and Cooper Vest pitching a three-hitter for the Flyers.
The late game saw Dixie knock Salem Hills out of the tournament with a 3-2 decision. Flyer Reggie Graff notched a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh for the win.
Dixie and Desert Hills split two games this season, with the Thunder winning 3-0 at Dixie and the Flyers winning 3-0 at Desert Hills.