Story and photos by Kurt Johnson
OREM – Struggling to score runs against Orem and starting pitcher Parker Wollaston, the Payson High baseball team turned up the aggressiveness Saturday at Brent Brown Ballpark on campus at Utah Valley University. Unfortunately for the Lions, Orem had the answers and they made all the throws in taking down Payson 9-1 on the final day of play in the Orem Tiger Baseball Classic.
The Lions earned wins in one-run games against Wasatch and Mountain View in this event before falling to Park City Friday in a game that sent them to the third-place vs. fourth-place matchup Saturday against Orem. The Tigers also won their initial two contests of their own tourney, against Timpview and Park City, before losing to Wasatch Friday.
Wollaston did a great job keeping the Lions off balance in the batter’s box, and his teammates had his back all afternoon long as the Tigers gradually pulled away for a comfortable margin of victory. It was the second consecutive loss to close out the tournament for a Payson team that had won seven of its first eight games of the year.
The Lions created scoring chances throughout the game, but until a Jayden Hartle home run in the home half of the seventh, they could not get anyone around to home plate. That was in large part due to Wollaston’s ability to get out pitches when he needed them and the Orem defenders recording critical outs cutting down Payson base runners.
The Tigers opened the scoring in the top half of the first inning. Lead-off hitter Fisher Hermansen walked to open the game and stole second base, but after Hartle struck out the next two batters, he was in position to pitch the Lions out of the jam. Orem catcher Jake Herman, however, was having none of that as he singled to center field, chasing home Hermansen.
Hartle reached base himself on a two-out walk in the home half of the first frame, but he was unable to score on a Dylan Lutz double. That allowed Wollaston and the Tigers to escape with the 1-0 advantage intact.
Jake Stayner singled
and scored on an error in the Orem second to extend the margin, and then Gavin Gray, who had walked, added another tally when he scored on wild pitch that preceded an inning-ending strike three by one pitch to add one more to the lead.
Herman made a diving grab on a foul pop behind home plate to steal an out for the Tigers early in the Lions second, and then with two on and one out, Orem delivered another huge defensive play. Cade Young caught a fly ball in center field, and when Payson’s Nate Rowley decided to tag and take the extra 90 feet from second to third, Young delivered a strike to Stayner at third for the tag and the final out.
Wollaston’s run-scoring single added another run to the Tiger total in the third, and then it was first baseman Paxton Schultz’s turn to show off his arm strength while Payson was batting in the bottom of the third. As Stayner played a ground ball at third and tossed to Schultz for the out, the Lion base runner decided to go for that 90-foot advance to third, but the Orem first baseman unleashed one of his 90 MPH fastballs across the diamond to shortstop Hayden Young covering third for yet another assisted inning-ending putout.
A two-run double from Gray contributed to a three-run Orem fifth that essentially put the game on ice, as the Tigers opened a 7-0 lead. The Tigers added single runs in the sixth and seventh before Hartle’s long ball provided the only scoring of the day for the Lions.
Payson (7-3) visits Timpview in a final non-region tune-up Wednesday as the Lions prepare for Region 12 play to open next Saturday.
Orem (6-4) opens Region 7 play at home Tuesday against Skyline (4-5) before visiting the Eagles Thursday as a pair of crucial early-season league games come on the heels of this one.