A big hit quickly turned into a memorable one for Pine View’s Jared Stirling.
In the top of the sixth, with the Panthers up by two and the bases loaded, Stirling ripped a hit into right field. It looked to be a 2-RBI single, it turned out to be much more. The ball rolled through the Carbon right fielder’s legs and Stirling just kept running. He didn’t stop until he crossed home.
You can call it an inside-the-park home run, or more accurately a single and a three-bag error, but, either way, it had the same impact. It blew the game open to help send Pine View into the 3A state semifinals with a 12-6 win over Carbon on Thursday at Gates Field at Kearns High School.
“He is such a good kid,” Pine View coach Troy Wall said of Stirling. “He is very quiet, but one heck of an athlete. He hits a lot of home runs in practice, he’s the kind of kid that can run out any kind of ground ball. To see that happen for him is just awesome.”
And Stirling erased any doubts of his home run prowess the next inning when he smashed a 2-run shot to give the Panthers a commanding 12-3 lead.
Pine View ace Dakota Donovan finished with six strikeouts in six innings of work. He also helped his own cause with a first inning 2-run homer and an RBI-single in the third to help put the Panthers up 5-0 after the top of the third.
Carbon did get to Donovan in the bottom of the third. The Dinos started the inning with three straight hits, and were able to plate two runs in the inning. Carbon got another run in the fifth on a passed ball to cut the Pine View lead to 5-3, but that was the closest the Dinos would get.
In the top of the sixth, the first three Pine View batters reached base, loading them up for Stirling to deliver his four-run scoring hit/error combo.
“I want a home run,” Stirling said with a smile, “but it’s a single.”
But that might change the older he gets. When he tells his kids about the play, he’s going to conveniently forget about the error.
The Panthers are now two wins away from back-to-back state championships, but that’s a task that hasn’t really been discussed among the players.
“We don’t really spend much time talking about it,” Wall said. “We focus on one game at a time, one pitch at a time, we keep our focus there and when we get to the end, if we do it, fantastic.”
Pine View will play in the 3A semifinals on Friday at Kearns High at 4:30 p.m.
Follow Ryan Miller on Twitter, @millerjryan.