Story and photos by Kurt Johnson
PLEASANT GROVE – It was one of those days…if you were going to get to Pleasant Grove High right-hander Derek Wall, you needed to do it early. Wall opened the door early in a critical Region 4 matchup with American Fork, but when the Cavemen were unable to cash in, they had to deal with late-game Wall and he was dialed in.
After stranding six American Fork base runners in the first three innings, the senior settled in to allow just one runner to reach over the final four frames as he pitched the Vikings to a 3-1 win. The game wasn’t a thing of beauty, but with its pitcher making life difficult for the visitors, Pleasant Grove did just enough with the sticks to earn a win in the opener of a three-game series.
Wall walked the lead-off batter in the top half of the first, but followed that by inducing three fly-ball outs. In the second, he walked the bases loaded with one out, but got a huge strikeout followed by a ground out to keep the zero on the scoreboard. The Cavemen picked up their first hit, a one-out Mick Madsen single, in the third, which was followed by another base on balls, but once again the Viking righty delivered a huge one-out strikeout to pave his way out of the jam.
For the most part, American Fork’s Ryan Hardman matched Wall’s effort, but there was that one inning…the home half of the third…that kept him from picking up the victory. The Caveman right-hander also went the distance, allowing eight hits and those three third-inning runs.
Lead-off man Hayden Veenker got things going for the Vikings in that three-run third with a single. After a strikeout, the Pleasant Grove second baseman advanced 90 feet on a wild pitch, which prompted American Fork to intentionally walk Payton Henry. The three hitters who followed that free pass made the Cavemen pay, and decided the ultimate outcome of this contest.
Tate Briggs, Mathew (Bub) Wilde and Ty Lewis banged consecutive run-scoring singles to plate the only runs Wall would need. Wilde and Lewis singled back-to-back again in the fifth, with Lewis’ knock coming on a hit-and-run that put Pleasant Grove runners on first and third, but the hits came after two were out and Hardman was able to get a groundout to end the inning.
Up 3-0, Wall made one mistake, but it came to the lead-off hitter in the sixth and thus no one was aboard to make it worse than it was. Colton Shaerrer was there to take advantage of the mistake, and he scalded a line drive home run that never got more than 15 feet off the ground as it roared over the wall in center field.
That was the only American Fork safety over those last four frames and it was not nearly enough as Wall tossed the complete-game two-hitter and finished with 11 strikeouts.
These two teams will meet twice more this week, with games Wednesday at American Fork and a return game Friday back at Pleasant Grove. It is a huge early-season series as the Vikings (3-1 in Region 4, 8-2 overall) and Cavemen (3-1, 8-3) battle to remain near the top of the league standings.