As a pitcher’s duel unfolded under a warm, sunny sky Saturday, Beaver head coach Kurt Heslington knew there was only one driving force in his team’s emotions.
One break, one big hit, would be the razor-thin difference between winning and losing.
Colby Limb came through when it counted, giving the Beavers their biggest hit of the day and a definite feeling of redemption.
Limb doubled with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning to score Bailey Bradshaw as Beaver beat defending state champion Emery 4-3 to sweep its first two games in the 2A playoffs Saturday at the Beavers’ home field.
Limb’s hit was the deciding blow in a memorable pitching battle between Beaver’s Tilston Bradshaw and Emery ace Dillon Wilstead. For the Beavers, the win over the Spartans erased the sting of last year’s 3-2 loss on the same field in the same second round.
“He puts things on his shoulders and carries a lot of weight as our leadoff guy,” Heslington said of Limb. “That was an unbelievably big hit for a great person. Unreal.”
Beaver got to Wilstead early with a three-run first as Jesse McMullin hit a two-run double and Michael Roberts singled to drive him in. Emery answered immediately in the top of the second as Marco Mota doubled with two out and Tanner Lake followed with a two-run homer to cut the gap to 3-2.
The score would stay that way until the fifth. Lake singled with one out and moved up to second on a wild pitch before being replaced with a pinch-runner. Leadoff hitter Ridge Nielson followed with a single to tie the game at 3-3, but was later thrown out trying to steal second.
Bradshaw then got Wilstead to fly out to center to retire the side and allow the Beavers to exhale. The Beaver pitcher bore down in the top of the seventh after a one-out error by getting Mota to look at a called third strike and retiring Lake on a fly to center.
That gave the Beavers the chance they needed.
Bailey Bradshaw lined a soft single to left leading off, but pinch-hitter Matthew Roberts struck out and Payson Fails laid down a bunt that moved him into scoring position for Limb.
With the count at 1-1, Limb got a fastball he liked and sent it to the fence in right-center to easily score Bradshaw, setting off a jubilant celebration.
“The pitch came in right where I like it,” Limb said. “Right-center is my spot.”
Even as the bats went cold on both sides, Limb remembered the words of his coach as the game progressed.
“Something good’s going to happen sometime. Just gotta stay with it,” Limb said. “This win is everything.”
Just as important was Tilston Bradshaw’s pitching.
“I just thought to myself how I’ve done this since I was a little kid,” Bradshaw said. “Buck up and throw strikes. I knew the defense was behind me and I knew they would make plays.”
Even with two outs in the inning, the Beavers’ confidence never wavered. Each of the Beaver outfielders made one stellar sliding catch that ended innings and kept the Spartans off the scoreboard.
“It went up even more because we had such an adrenaline rush,” Bradshaw said. “Bailey got a clutch hit and Colby’s been hitting the ball all year. We knew he would step up.”
In the opening game against South Summit, the Beavers had trouble coming through with runners on base, stranding six in the first three innings, until they scored eight runs in the fourth and polished off an 11-0 victory over the Wildcats in five. Tyler Hoyt threw a two-hit shutout to send Beaver to the rematch with Emery.
South Summit stayed alive in the one-loss bracket with a 6-1 victory over Rowland Hall. Emery got by Rowland Hall in its opening game with a 1-0 win.
In other 2A baseball playoff games involving Region 13 teams Saturday, Parowan fell to the one-loss bracket after an 11-1 defeat at Grand. The Rams opened with a 4-0 win over Summit Academy.
Enterprise dropped a pair of decisions at Gunnison, a 1-0 loss to North Sevier and a 2-1 defeat against Region 13 rival Delta. The Wolves outhit both teams — 9-4 in the first game and 4-3 in the second — but left the bases loaded four times on the day.
And in its playoff debut, Diamond Ranch was eliminated after a 6-5 loss to Grand and a 12-8 defeat to Summit Academy. The Red Devils scored a run in the fifth and three more in the sixth to wipe out a 5-2 deficit against the Diamondbacks.