OREM — Top teams can use a variety of methods to win games, and Pleasant Grove proved to be such a team during Thursday's 9-5 win over Syracuse in what was the final game in the no-loss bracket of the 6A state tournament.
The Vikings are generally known as a hard-hitting squad that often overpowers opponents from the plate. During the win over the Titans, however, coach Darrin Henry's team relied on its savvy and what is often described as "small ball."
"We've been talking about it all year as a team, that sometimes you have to rely on small ball, and this team has bought in all year," Henry said. "And that's what's great about this team. We can beat you in so many ways. We're going to have adversity in this tournament, but we embrace it."
The adversity on Thursday came with the Titans jumping out to a 4-2 lead through three innings with the Viking defense and pitching struggling to get through innings. But they immediately responded, putting up two runs in the top of the fourth inning to tie things at 4-4 before Syracuse took back the lead at 5-4 in the bottom half of the same inning.
But then came the top of the sixth inning, which all but decided the outcome while showcasing Pleasant Grove's ability to effectively execute small ball.
Taking advantage of some uncertain fielding and loss of control from the pitching mound, the Vikings mustered four runs on just one hit. They were patient at the plate while taking every advantage of the Titans' otherwise sloppy play, while in turn forcing some mishaps with aggressive base-running, which all led to an 8-5 lead after six innings.
"Their pitcher did a good job against us. He threw his off-speed (pitches) well ... so we just had to stay with a balanced approach," Henry said. "We're going to do whatever it takes to win this game, and it was small ball."
A lot of the action on the base pads was forced by Pleasant Grove leadoff hitter Noah Taylor, who went 3-5 while scoring two runs and contributing two RBI, earning him the game ball from Henry.
"Noah is kind of the key to our team," Henry said. "He gets on base, and when he gets on base you just saw what he can do. He just causes havoc."
According to Taylor, the Vikings decided to resolve a lot that was going wrong after about a 20-minute rain delay at the start of the sixth inning.
"We just thought that when the rain stops that we're going to step on their throats... and we did," Taylor said.
Helping out from the mound was Dillon Trane, who came in relief to pitch 4 2/3 innings while allowing just a single run.Comment on this story
The win sets up Pleasant Grove as the enviable lone no-loss team remaining in the double-elimination tournament heading into the final day of competition. Such a spot is always an advantage, but perhaps even more so this year when considering the multiple rain delays that have upset the schedule.
"It's been tough because we've been sitting around a lot waiting to play," Henry said. "It's a big day tomorrow and hopefully we can come through with a big performance and some Pleasant Grove baseball."
Due to further rain delays, the final game of the one-loss bracket between Syracuse and Lone Peak was postponed until Friday, with the winner moving on to take on Pleasant Grove.