With his team facing elimination every time they stepped on the field at the 3A state playoffs Friday, Cedar coach Eric Fieldsted broke the survival math down to an uncomplicated formula.
“One inning at a time, one pitch at a time, and score one more run than (the opponent),” he said.
Having a pitcher like Kayden Lunt certainly helped the Redmen survive and advance Friday.
Lunt threw a complete-game shutout, scattering five hits, and Rykker Tom delivered a run-scoring triple to get the offense started as Cedar beat region rival Pine View, 3-0, in its opening game at Brent Brown Ballpark.
With the game scoreless in the bottom of the third, Tom came to the plate with Trey Esplin aboard after a two-out single. On a 1-0 count, Tom drove a Harrison Goebel pitch toward the right-field line that Panther right fielder Kash Walker made a diving catch attempt on. The ball hit off Walker’s glove and was ruled fair as it rolled into foul ground.
Tom ended up on third as Esplin crossed the plate for the game’s first run. Pine View coach Mike Gargano came out of the dugout to argue the call, but to no avail.
On the very next pitch from Goebel, Brock Esplin lined a double to the gap in left-center that scored Tom. Gargano tried to continue the argument with plate umpire Jim Hochstrasser, but was promptly ejected from the game.
The end result: Two pitches, two Cedar runs and more than enough cushion for Lunt to work with.
“He’s tough,” Fieldsted said of Lunt. “We put him in trouble a little bit not fielding the ball and he battled his way out.”
The Redmen extended the lead to 3-0 in the fourth on an RBI single from Morgan Garrett, and Lunt did the rest. The senior had to fight through jams in each of the final three innings, but got out unscathed.
The Panthers put runners on at first and second with one out in the top of the seventh, but Lunt got Micah Morgan to pop out and Tyler Johnston to line out to Esplin at second to secure the win.
Needing one more win to stay alive for today’s games, Cedar faced a showdown with Park City that was a complete polar opposite. After falling behind early, the Redmen took full advantage of seven third-inning walks to score 11 runs and rally past the Miners in a 13-8 victory.
Despite being outhit 12-7, Cedar flipped that deficit around where it counted in the run column and survived three errors along the way.
In total, Miner pitchers issued nine walks, hit two batters and committed two balks.
Fieldsted celebrated the win by dishing out congratulatory hugs to each team member for its first trip to the final day of the 3A state tournament since 2009.
After both teams scored a run in the opening inning, Park City put three more on the board in the second to move out to a 4-1 lead. It led Fieldsted to offer encouragement.
“I had to say, ‘Hey guys, it’s early,'” Fieldsted said. “We had to stay believing in ourselves. I didn’t like our body language and how some heads were down after that second inning.”
By the time the merry-go-round was set in motion in the third, the frowns in the dugout turned upside down in a hurry. When the carnage was finished, the Redmen had a 12-4 lead and were never seriously challenged after that.
“As soon as their pitchers started struggling, it got fun from there,” said Lunt, who scored a run in the win. “Rather than playing tense, it lightened everything up and we just got rolling.
“This late in a state tournament, you don’t expect to draw that many walks. It was surprising. … All we had to do was focus and put the ball in play. We took it one step at a time, and it led to 11 runs in the one inning.”
Leadoff hitter Josh Boyer was the only Cedar starter with two hits and he scored three runs along with Esplin. Four of Cedar’s seven hits went for extra bases.
Cedar’s reward for its effort is a showdown with Desert Hills for the right to play Grantsville for the state title at 9 a.m. today. The winner will need to beat the Cowboys twice to win the crown.