Story and photos by Kurt Johnson
PLEASANT GROVE – Good morning, good afternoon and good night. With a pair of 90 mile-per-hour fastballs sandwiched around a well-placed off-speed pitch, Pleasant Grove’s Payton Henry closed out a seventh-inning rally by a game Lehi club Wednesday afternoon and the Vikings opened Region 4 play with a 3-1 win over the Pioneers.
Henry, who usually finds himself on the receiving end of pitches for Pleasant Grove, doubles as the team’s closer, and Wednesday he got things started with his bat before finishing them with his arm. That, and some timely stellar defense was the difference for the Vikings on their home field.
For the most part, this was a pitcher’s duel between Pleasant Grove’s Derek Wall and Drew Zimmerman of Lehi. Wall tossed six innings, allowing just one hit, before yielding the bump in the final frame, while Zimmerman went the distance (six innings) for the Pioneers, striking out 11 while allowing five knocks.
Henry got his team on the scoreboard in the opening stanza, ripping a double to right-center field that chased home Brock Watkins with the game’s initial tally. The Vikings tacked on two more in the home half of the third after Hayden Veenker banged a lead-off two-bagger and after a strikeout, Lehi chose to intentionally walk Henry setting the table for run-scoring hits from Tate Briggs and Ty Lewis.
Zimmerman recorded all three outs in the inning by way of the strikeout, and two of those game with the bases loaded. One came before Lewis knocked in the inning’s second run and the last one closed out the stanza with the sacks loaded.
The three runs and five hits Pleasant Grove picked up in those first three innings were the extent of their hits and runs for the day, but it turned out to be enough thanks to that defense. Though Wall allowed just a second inning lead-off single to Kelton Higgins, he walked six and hit two batters to open plenty of scoring chances for Lehi.
The Pioneers got their first two hitters aboard in the second on that Higgins hit and a walk, but Wall retired the next three batters. Then, in the fourth, Lehi had the bases juiced with just one out on a trio of walks before Pleasant Grove centerfielder Malik Overstreet flashed the leather.
Zimmerman sent a sinking line drive towards the gap in right-center, and it appeared Overstreet got a late break on the ball. The speedy centerfielder turned on the jets, however, and reeled in the liner with a dive. The Pioneer base runners were caught by surprise and Overstreet’s return throw to the infield was delivered to second base to complete an inning-ending double play.
A pair of walks set the table again an inning later, when Tyler James slapped a ground ball that appeared to be ticketed for left field. This time, it was Lewis with the glove work, as the Pleasant Grove third baseman dove to his left to snare the grounder before rising to his knees to throw to Veenker at second for the force out.
Lehi’s Jason James slid in hard and spilled the Viking second baseman to break up the double play, and though his slide was straight at the bag, the umpired deemed it to have interfered with the completion of the double play. He called James out at first as a result and another rally was quashed.
The contest continued to the top half of the seventh, with the defending state champions still leading 3-0, and Lewis got the call out of the Pleasant Grove bullpen. Zimmerman led off for Lehi, and this time his liner dropped in front of Overstreet for a base hit, and he was able to move over to second base after a slight bobble.
With one out, Cam Grace hit a flare into center field to put runners at first and third with one out, and then James drew a walk to load the bases. Lewis picked up his second strikeout, fanning James, but then he walked Higgins to force home the Pioneers’ only run of the day.
With the bases still jammed and two outs, and with Broc Hansen coming to the plate, Viking head coach Darrin Henry went to the hard-throwing closer, his son Payton. Henry removed the catcher’s gear and took the hill for those final three pitches.
He got a swing-through strike and then dropped in an off-speed pitch before turning loose the heater on the third pitch. Hansen got a piece of it, but the catcher held on to record the game-ending strikeout.