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Kristin Murphy, KSL

Pleasant Grove baseball rallies with small ball to top Syracuse for 6A title game berth

By Sean Walker, KSL.com | Posted - May 23rd, 2019 @ 5:32pm



OREM — For five innings of Thursday’s Class 6A baseball winner’s bracket final, Syracuse’s magical run looked like it was going to continue.

The No. 4 seed from Region 1, the Titans won a triplicate of postseason games to advance to face Region 4 champion Pleasant Grove. Syracuse scratched across five runs in four frames, and clung to a 5-4 lead after five innings.

Then the rain came, and — much like it has done through this week’s tournament — forced a delay.

About 45 minutes later, the Vikings took back all the momentum.

Leadoff hitter Noah Taylor went 4-for-4 with two runs and two RBI, and the Vikings surged late to pull away from the Titans, 9-5 to advance to the 6A championship game Friday at UCCU Ballpark.

“Noah is the key to our team, to be honest,” Pleasant Grove coach Darren Henry said. “He gets off base, and then you see what he can do on base. He causes havoc.

“He’s one of our leaders, for sure.”

The Vikings will take on the winner of Lone Peak and Syracuse at 3 p.m. Friday at UCCU Ballpark. The one-loss bracket final between the Knights and Titans was suspended Thursday in the fifth inning due to weather, and will resume at approximately 12:30 p.m. Friday.

Ty Parker scored two runs off two walks, Brock Watkins went 1-for-2 with a run scored and a stolen base, and Stockton Veenker went 1-for-1 with a walk and two runs for the Vikings (21-8).

But Taylor got the gang going.

Taylor ripped a single up the middle of the park on one of the first pitches he saw, and moments later — after a steal and two wild pitches, he was cruising home with the first run of the game.

“We just slowly had some hits come together, we rallied together, and we fed off each other’s energy,” Taylor said. “The few games we’ve played, we shut them down early. But having them hit balls off us was new.

“It shocked us a bit. But once we realized it was our ballgame, we hopped on our horses and got going.”

From there, it was off to the races — even if the Titans had the early advantage.

Hunter Wilder drove in the first run of the game for Syracuse as part of a two-run second, and Dylan Hawkes’ RBI triple in the next frame helped the Titans to a 3-2 lead after three innings.

But Taylor ripped a bases-clearing single to left-center for two RBI in the top of the fourth, equalizing for the Vikings at 4-4. Pleasant Grove regained the lead with four runs in the sixth, including two on passed balls with the bases loaded and another on a stolen base during a pickoff play that followed a short delay for a passing thunderstorm.

“They started out doing a job on us, threw off speed well, and the wind held a few balls back, too,” Henry said. “We just had to stay with the balanced approach and do whatever it was to win the game. It just happened to be small ball there.”

The Vikings also took advantage of a 45-minute delay, waiting out a brief storm that dredged up the ballpark at Utah Valley University.

“When the rain came down, after it stopped, we just wanted to step on their throats, so to speak,” Taylor said. “That’s all that matters.”

“It’s been tough. We sat around quite a bit, waiting to play,” Henry said. “I knew we were ready though. I said, guys, we don’t make excuses with the weather or anything. Just take of things, either way.”

Logan Poe went 1-for-2 with a walk, a run scored and an RBI double for the Titans (16-12), and Hawkes finished with an RBI triple for Syracuse.

Syracuse will face Lone Peak in an elimination game Friday at 12:30 p.m. The winner immediately advances to face the Vikings in the state final.

If Pleasant Grove loses in the final tentatively scheduled for 3 p.m., a winner-take-all contest will decide the championship on Saturday at UVU.

Sean Walker

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