Story and photos by Kurt Johnson
OREM – With ace right-hander Paxton Schultz on the mound and playing on its home field in the second round of the 4A state baseball tournament, the Orem High baseball had to feel good heading into Wednesday’s battle with Olympus. After spotting Schultz a four-run advantage in the home half of the first frame, this had the feeling of a long day for the Titans.
By the time the contest was over, it was a long day, but that’s because the two teams combined for 28 runs and 25 hits in a game that ended after the Tigers plated four runs in the sixth to finish off a 19-9 victory by way of the 10-run mercy rule. The Titans answered Orem’s early offense with scoring of their own, but they were unable to overcome a Tiger third that included just three hits, but three Olympus errors and five walks added on to produce eight runs for Orem.
At that point, the Tigers were up 13-3 and seemed on their way to a five-inning victory. Someone, however, forgot to inform the Titans and Olympus keep on fighting against one of the state’s best hurlers, finishing with nine runs and 12 hits in the losing effort.
After Schultz set down the Titans in order in the top of the first, including a pair of punch outs, Orem plated four runs in the home half before an out was recorded. Titan starter Jake Giddings walked Fisher Hermansen and Zack Lamoreaux to open the game and the Tigers scored their first run on an errant relay throw after a base hit by Schultz. The next batter went big fly, as catcher Jake Herman ripped a three-run shot over the left field barrier for the 4-0 lead.
Olympus wasted no time in responding, with a lot of help from the home team. Titan catcher AJ Wiseman opened the top of the second with his first of many big hits in the game, this one a solo home run. An error put Justin Pierce on base ahead of a Dallin Tolman double that made the score 4-2 and when Tolman tried to take third on throw to the dish, he appeared to be an easy out until the return throw to third got away to give him new life at the hot corner.
Tolman was unable to score on another fielding error off of a Nick Ward ground ball, but the Titans did manage to chase him home on a Neal Snyder safety squeeze bunt that pulled Olympus within a single run heading to the bottom of the second.
A Kevin Balser run-scoring single stretched the Orem lead to 5-3 in the second, but it was in the third that the roof caved in on the Titans. Jake Stayner reached for the Tigers on an error and then, with Hunter Van Buren looking to bunt him over to second, the pitcher mishandled the ball, allowing Van Buren to reach on the inning’s second miscue.
James Kimmel was up next, and he also squared to move the runners 90 feet. This time, Giddings fielded the bunt on the third-base side and seemed to have just one play, on Stayner heading into third base. The throw was late and Kimmel reached on the fielders’ choice to jam the bags with n
o outs without benefit of a hit in an inning that felt like it could have already been over.
With the door wide open, Orem came crashing through, beginning with a two-run single by Hermansen. Schultz also drove in a pair with a two-bagger in the eight-run stanza, and the Tigers also scored runs on a wild pitch, a balk, a ground out and a Van Buren infield single. By the time Olympus got off the field to bat in the fourth, it was facing a 13-3 deficit.
Balser added to the lead with a solo home run in the Orem fourth. That brought the Titans to the plate for the fifth needing at least two runs to extend the game and they were up to the task.
A trio of doubles and a hit batter allowed Olympus to pick up three in the fifth, with a two-run two-bagger by the Titans’ offensive player of the game, Wiseman followed by a run-scoring double from Pearce sending the runs homeward. Wiseman unloaded his second long ball of the game in the sixth, a three-run shot that brought Olympus within six runs at 15-9 and for the game, the Titan backstop had two home runs, the double and six RBI.
The Tigers saved themselves an inning by scoring four runs on just two hits in the bottom of the sixth, an inning that featured a bases-loaded walk, a run scoring when Van Buren broke up a double-play at second base and finally, the game-ending run came when Stayner slid home after a wild pitch to create the 10-run advantage that brought the contest to a sudden conclusion.
Hermansen reached base five times for the Tigers, with three singles and a pair of walks. Schultz went the distance on the mound, though it was not his prettiest performance, and also had three hits for Orem.
While the Tigers won the game by 10 runs, they only outhit Olympus by one, as the Titans totaled 12 hits to Orem’s 13. Both are still alive in the 4A playoffs, but the Tigers are obviously in a better spot in the double-elimination tournament.
Olympus (14-11), the No. 2 seed from Region 6, will face its own Region champion, Murray (21-2) in an elimination game Monday at 7 p.m. as the 4A tournament now moves en masse to Utah Valley University next week. Orem (24-3), the Region 7 champion, will face Region 8 No.2 Maple Mountain (19-7) in a winner’s bracket battle at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Golden Eagles are responsible for one of those three dings in the Tigers’ loss column, courtesy an 11-5 win over Orem May 4.