Story & photos by Kurt Johnson
SPANISH FORK – When two good baseball teams share the same diamond, the smallest things make the biggest difference. Tuesday afternoon at Maple Mountain, the final score may have been a 5-0 win for visiting Timpanogos, but the difference between these two clubs was razor-thin.
Sophomore left-hander Derik Eaquinto was outstanding for the Timberwolves, allowing just two hits and striking out eight in his five innings on the bump, while Maple Mountain starter Jeff Mack was simply very good, yielding just four hits in his 6-2/3 innings of work. The game turned on Timpanogos’ ability to capitalize on every single opportunity it got as those four hits turned into five runs.
The game was scoreless and hitless through the first two frames, but Eaquinto got things going for the Timberwolves with a lead-off single in the top of the third. Kaden Walker moved the courtesy runner to second with the first of three well-executed sacrifice bunts for Timpanogos, two of which led directly to runs.
After a walk to Tanner Evans, Tyler Cornish delivered his first big blow of the game, placing a ball inside the chalk down the right-field line to chase home a pair runs with a two-bagger. Cornish advanced to third on a balk, a big 90 feet since he scored the inning’s third run on a passed ball.
Though it lost one runner trying to take third base on a ball in the dirt, Timpanogos managed to add one to its lead in the fourth after a hit batter and an error put two aboard with one out. This time, it was Walker with the big hit, a run-scoring double. Walker walked to open the seventh, then after Evans moved him 90 feet with the bunt, scored the game’s final run on Cornish’s second double of the contest.
Eaquinto’s dominance did not come courtesy an overpowering fastball. Instead, the southpaw leaned heavily on a mix of off-speed stuff to shut down the Golden Eagles. His curve ball coupled with a good change-up were his best out pitches and he seemed to have Maple Mountain off balance until he left the game after the fifth.
He was in trouble only once, in the fourth, when Jaren Hall reached on a leadoff bunt single and Sam Moore beat out a grounder deep in the hole at short to put two aboard with one out, but Eaquinto pitched out of the inning without allowing a run.
Cornish relied more on the heater in his one inning of work as he struck out the side in the Golden Eagle sixth before yielding the mound to Cal Beardsley for the seventh. Maple Mountain made a little noise in the final stanza, loading the bases on a pair of walks and an infield single, but a line drive to right ended the game before anyone could cross the dish.
Next up for Timpanogos (1-0) is a series of games in St. George this weekend, beginning with a battle with Dixie Friday afternoon. Maple Mountain (3-2) is at Grantsville Thursday. The Golden Eagles and Timberwolves are expected to be among the teams in the hunt for the 4A state title when all is said and done this season.