Sometimes its better to play in the postseason with a chip on your collective shoulder. The Cedar Redmen showed everyone how to remove that chip as they extended their season by breaking out the big bruising bats under a warm late-afternoon sun Thursday.
Brock Esplin belted a first-inning grand slam, and Rykker Tom added a two-run shot in the second as Cedar bolted to a big early lead and cruised past Uintah, 11-5, to stay alive in the 3A state baseball playoffs at Brent Brown Ballpark.
When the damage was said and done, Cedar built a 9-0 lead through four innings and was never seriously headed as they advanced to an 11 a.m. game Friday against Pine View.
“Everyone was on the same page today and the atmosphere really pumped us up,” said Tom, who went 2-for-4 and scored three times against Uintah. “We all came out ready to play.
“We’ve been playing with a chip on our shoulder a lot lately. … We shouldn’t have lost Saturday (against Juan Diego), but we deserved this today.”
While the bats were alive and well, the defense didn’t have to do much work behind Cedar starter Kayden Lunt, who allowed only one hit in three innings. Esplin worked three innings in relief of Lunt, added an RBI triple in the seventh and scored the final run on an RBI double from Lunt.
“It’s easy as a coach when they show up to swing it the way they did in these two games,” Cedar coach Eric Fieldsted said. “Brock is such a good fundamental hitter, he’ll hit the ball where it’s pitched a lot.”
The Utes broke Cedar’s shutout bid with a run in the fourth off Esplin, then added four in the seventh off Dusty Hanna, two coming in on a Caleb Vernon home run.
“I didn’t care how many runs they scored as long as they didn’t get 10,” Fieldsted said.
Cedar and Pine View split the regular-season series, each winning on the road.
Cedar was just as strong in its opener against Richfield, using a four-run third inning to break a 1-1 tie as they went on to a decisive 9-3 victory over the Wildcats in Spanish Fork.
After eliminating Stansbury with a 5-2 victory in its opening game, Canyon View saw its season end in heartbreaking fashion as Jaxon Hermanson beat out a fielder’s choice grounder that scored Chandler Anderson with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Park City a come-from-behind 4-3 victory.
The hit helped the Miners cap a two-run rally after the Falcons had taken a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh.
“Sometimes balls don’t get hit hard enough,” Canyon View coach Jason Jacobsen said. “If it’s hit harder, we turn the double play. … It’s been the story of our year. We missed the big hit a lot. Sometimes we get away with it; other times we didn’t.”
It was the highlight of a memorable pitching duel between the Falcons’ Ty Nielson and Park City’s Scott Stokes. The game’s only other scoring happened in the first inning, and both pitchers delivered. Nielson had a two-out single that scored Canyon View’s initial run, and Stokes delivered in the bottom of the inning with a two-run double.
The game stayed that way until the top of the seventh. With one out, Keaton Kringlen singled, and Payton Higgins hit an RBI double that just missed being the go-ahead home run at the fence in left field.
Skyler Johnson followed with a bloop double into right field that temporarily gave Canyon View its first lead of the night, but they left runners stranded at second and third to give Park City its last chance.
Chandler Barkdull led off with a double and Griffin Churich bunted him over to third. Anderson tied the game with a double of his own and Parker Morin was issued an intentional walk before Hermanson delivered his heroics.
The Miners will face Juan Diego Friday at 1:30 p.m. in an elimination game.