Desert Hills pitcher Dylan File admitted he hadn’t been swinging the bat very well lately, but with one big swing, the senior delivered a complete performance that carried the Thunder past a big-time rival in a pressure-filled game Thursday.
File hit a solo home run off Dakota Donovan leading off the top of the sixth inning and forced the Panthers to leave two runners stranded in the bottom of the seventh to finish off Desert Hills’ 3-2 victory over Pine View in the 3A state playoffs at Brent Brown Ballpark.
With his father in attendance from Arizona, File went the distance on the mound with eight strikeouts and only two walks, winning the duel with Pine View sophomore ace Dakota Donovan when he took a fastball over the fence that broke a 2-2 tie.
“It’s been talked about all week how this game was going to be huge, how this game may have even been the championship game,” File said. “We sent a message to everyone that we faced a pitcher like Dakota and we’re going to do whatever we can to win.
“(Donovan) left up a fastball, so I went two-strike approach, no stride, no step.”
With the Panthers serving as home team, they made File work in the bottom of the seventh. After a walk and single put two runners on, File struck out Hunter Hansen for the final out that secured a berth in Friday’s semifinal game against Grantsville at 4:30 p.m.
File’s performance drew a full dose of praise from head coach Jerry Beck.
“I love that kid. He put us on his back and willed us to the win,” Beck said. “He threw more pitches than we wanted, but did what he had to do today. It’s survive and advance at this point.”
Despite getting outhit by an 8-4 count, the Thunder made the most of their chances. They scored a run in the top of the first without a hit, as Evan Moss led off with a walk and stole second with one out. With File at the plate, he reached safely on a throwing error that allowed Moss to score.
The game stayed at 1-0 as File denied the Panthers the big hit. Pine View left runners in scoring position in the second and third innings, before a Thunder fielding error helped PV take the lead in the fourth.
Donovan led off with a walk and went around to third when Brooks Barney reached as his slow roller to second base was thrown away. Barney was thrown out trying to advance to second on the play, then Justice Santiago struck out for the second out.
But Dylan Draper drove in Donovan with a single to tie the game and Kashden Walker lined a double to the fence in left-center that gave Pine View the lead, 2-1.
The Thunder responded with clutch hitting of their own in the fifth. Clay Gardner led off with a single and advanced to second as a pickoff throw sailed into right field. Gardner was still there as Braiden Irvin popped out to first on a bunt attempt and Jordan Evans was retired on a popout to second.
But Moss came through with a line-drive single that slipped past Donovan’s left ear into centerfield and scored Gardner to pull the Thunder even.
That led to File’s heroics on multiple fronts over the final two innings and earned the Thunder a showdown with the Cowboys, an 11-7 winner over Juan Diego.