4A high school baseball championship: Spanish Fork rebounds from loss to capture state title

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OREM — The sleeping giants were awakened, and that spelled doom for the rest of 4A.

Spanish Fork resoundingly rebounded from a state tournament loss to Snow Canyon on Wednesday, and went on a tear to win five straight games to capture its third straight state baseball championship. The Dons beat Snow Canyon twice, 12-7 and 9-0 on Friday to win the 4A title.

The Dons may have still won the 4A championship without suffering a loss to the Warriors on Wednesday. But they were obviously a different and better team since then, and one that played up to its potential and national ranking.

"We just thought we were going to win — come out and just be easy squeezy," pitcher Matt Nelson said of his team's mindset prior to Wednesday. "And then they really humbled us when they beat us."

Spanish Fork coach Jim "Shoe" Nelson said the loss was like "awakening a lying dog."

"I think that was a wake-up call because we're pretty good," said coach Nelson. "There's a reason why we're ranked nationally. These kids just had a resolve after we lost that game to Snow Canyon. We just unleashed the bats and kicked some hind ends from there on."

He isn't kidding. The Dons won their final five tournament games by a combined score of 64-9. They shut out three of their final five opponents.

"We lost that game and something behind us sparked," said Spanish Fork designated hitter Kayden Porter, who put on quite an aerial show with three home runs in the Dons' 12-7 win that forced a true championship game. "We knew if we didn't come to play like we should then we wouldn't be around today."

The Dons quickly made their presence felt in their first win on Friday. They scored six runs in the second inning and built a 10-2 lead after four innings. Hayden Nielsen threw a complete game to help force a second game. Porter was the star, driving in six runs with three tape-measure home runs and a double.

For Porter, the home runs provided some redemption. He was the losing pitcher in Spanish Fork's loss to Snow Canyon on Wednesday, and he paid the Warriors back on Friday.

"I didn't play to my best potential in the game we lost," Porter said. "Those home runs today really helped."

Also providing a lift for the Dons was Matt Nelson. He threw on no days rest in the championship game after pitching a complete game in a 9-2 win over Mountain Crest on Thursday. He threw 93 pitches against the Mustangs.

"When I woke up this morning, I was real sore," the pitcher Nelson said. "And I thought, 'you know what this may hurt a little bit,' and then I figured, 'Senior year, last game coming through.' I came out and just threw the game."

He threw his second complete game in as many days, recording just one strikeout while relying on a standout defense. Nelson's presence provided somewhat of a curveball for the Warriors, who were probably expecting to see Porter in the title game.

"Usually, the more he pitches the more effective he is," "Shoe" Nelson said of his pitcher. "I can't say enough — he was just awesome. He had them off balance all day. With Matt, if you play defense you'll be right in the game because he pounds the strike zone and if the opponent is going to score they have to string hits together."

Snow Canyon only did that early in the game, and couldn't come up with clutch hits to score runs. Spanish Fork didn't have the same issues, building a 6-0 lead after three innings with Andy Perkins providing a key hit with a two-run double.

The Dons continued their baseball dynasty with the victory. They won the 5A championship in 2009 before capturing the 4A title in back-to-back years. They'll be in 3A next season, and an overwhelming favorite to win a fourth straight championship.

"Shoe" Nelson credits the Spanish Fork community for his program's continued dominance.

"It starts with recreation leagues and super leagues, and a lot of people put in a lot of time," he said. "Where in other communities, it's maybe football or basketball is the big sport, in Spanish Fork it starts and ends pretty much with baseball. It's just a community deal. We grab hold of baseball and take it pretty serious."

4A All-Tournament baseball

MVP: Kayden Porter, Spanish Fork

Hayden Nielsen, Spanish Fork

Matt Nelson, Spanish Fork

Jarrett Jarvis, Spanish Fork

Reggie Gates, Snow Canyon

Elliot Knox, Snow Canyon

Crew Carlson, East

Nate Lords, East

Trace Hansen, Mountain Crest

Sam Hall, Bonneville

Email: aaragon@desnews.com

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Andrew Aragon


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