Skyridge beat American Fork in all three games between the two teams this season before Friday’s opener of the 6A championship series. The Falcons’ Tyler Ball had a home run in each of those games, so it was only fitting for him to get a crucial one that turned the tides of Friday’s game in an eventual 7-6 win.
But before Ball’s late-game heroics, it was American Fork who gained control early and did not relinquish it for most of the day.
The Cavemen opened the game with a double from Dax Watts that brought home two runners and an RBI single from Cooper Jones for a three-run first inning.
American Fork ran up the score with three more runs in the fourth inning for a 6-1 Cavemen lead.
As the game continued Skyridge struggled to get back into it, but in the bottom of the sixth, the Falcons got some hope after a home run from Mason Thompson with a runner on first brought Skyridge within 6-3.
For the first time, the Falcons stringed multiple quality at-bats together, and Isaac Johanson hit a teammate home.
“That’s what the tournament is. It doesn’t matter who’s pitching, everyone is hanging, everyone is sore with the amount of games we’ve played, it’s really hard. Some guys have to clutch up and step up when they’re hanging and sore,” said Skyridge head coach Ryan Roberts.
Ball, Skyridge’s starting pitcher, stepped up to bat next with two runners on base. The BYU commit hit a crucial home run for the fourth time this year against American Fork.
“Tyler Ball is just special,” Roberts said. “He’s going to play professional baseball. BYU is lucky to get him, and he’s been a tremendous leader.
“He’s been clutch like that the entire year. Every guy on the team loves him and he’s the kind of guy where I want him to marry my daughter. He’s just the best dang player.”
Ball said when he stepped up to bat, he knew it was his time.
“I’ve been ice cold as a hitter the whole tournament. I told myself, ‘Hey, you’re due right here.’ That’s what I said going in. I was ready to drive a ball, and on that first pitch I got it and I drove it,” said Ball.
The home run gave the Falcons a 7-6 lead, which was their first of the game. Skyridge then held off American Fork in the top of the seventh and took home the first win in the 6A championship series.
It was a strong comeback win for the Falcons, which Roberts said has been an emphasis all year for his team.
“We started in the fall to be ‘always in the fight,’” said Roberts. “We try to do a little team thing where no matter what’s going on in your life you’re always in the fight. Don’t ever slow down and don’t ever stop.
“But more than that or what a coach would do it’s our leadership that we have with some quality players. They love our team, they want to win, they grind, they work hard and when they’re already really good players you win a lot of games. To me, that’s what (our success) is more than anything that the coaches say or do. That leadership that we just witnessed is just tremendous.”
Going up 1-0 in a best-of-three series is a huge advantage, but despite the win, Skyridge knows the rest of the championship series is going to be a battle.
“We know what American Fork’s done the last 10 years, and Jared (Ingersoll) done is a premier coach on the West Coast,” Roberts said.
“He’ll get those guys fired up and ready to play, but I’m excited about our chances tomorrow.”