American Fork walked into UCCU Ballpark Saturday morning down 0-1 in its best-of-three championship series against Skyridge, but after winning back-to-back games, the Cavemen walked out 6A state champions.
American Fork entered the playoffs in the middle of a rough patch, having lost its last six games, but the Cavemen turned it around and made an impressive championship run.
“Well, a couple weeks ago we dropped six in a row, and everyone was giving up on us,” said American Fork head coach Jared Ingersoll.
“We knew we’d be there in the end, but that little baptism by fire made us kick it into gear a little bit and sometimes trials create strengths.”
The championship series didn’t come without its trials either, which was made clear after the Cavemen gave up a 6-1 lead against Skyridge in Game 1.
American Fork lost last year’s 6A championship to Riverton after winning Game 1, so the Cavemen knew how important a mental reset was.
“I know what it feels like to win that first game and lose the next two. It’s not a fun feeling,” said Ingersoll.
“We just told the kids to move past it and today’s a new day. Today was our day and we had the music going on the bus and the kids had a good attitude being happy and dancing around and we stayed loose for the most part. I just can’t say enough about the toughness of the kids.”
Day two of the championship series started strong for American Fork, as the Cavemen scored in the first inning of the first game on a stolen base after a Skyridge error.
American Fork played a clean fielding game and held the Falcons to just one run, while scoring three of its own to win it 4-1.
With the two teams each at one win, the series became a best-of-one. Whoever won game three would be the 6A champion.
At the start of Game 3, American Fork leadoff hitter CJ Mascaro hit a single, and Ryder Robinson followed it up with a home run, which the Cavemen made 3-0 before the end of the inning.
It was just that kind of day for American Fork, and when Skyridge rallied back for a 7-3 lead after five innings, the Cavemen answered with five runs of their own in the fifth and sixth innings.
Robinson, a TCU signee, shined in the final game with a double, a home run and five RBIs, including the two that gave American Fork the lead for good.
“It was awesome. I don’t even know what happened,” said Robinson of his home run. “I was just looking for a good pitch to hit and not trying to do too much with it.
“We said from the start that whoever wins Game 2 wins the whole thing. When we lost Game 1, we knew we didn’t have to panic. We’re exhausted but this is all we wanted and I think we wanted it more so it was easy to stay up.”
In postgame interviews, Ingersoll couldn’t stop singing his players’ praises.
“My mind’s blown right now with their resiliency. We fought through so much adversity this year. I’m so proud of them,” he said.
“The seniors stepped up getting on base and gave Ryder a chance. Once Ryder gets up, we feel like we have a pretty good chance and he did his thing, staying on top of the ball and just drove it. I cannot tell you how much the senior group has led us. Such a great group of kids that’s been through everything this year.”