Zach Evans is usually the quietest guy in the Lehi dugout. His coach, Jason Ingersoll, has been encouraging him all year to break out of that shell and add a bit more energy to the program, but shyness is just his nature.
The Lehi senior let his bat and arm do the talking on Saturday, and Lehi has its first state championship since 1981 to show for it.
With two out in the bottom of the eighth inning and the championship-winning run on second base, Evans ripped a single up the middle, scoring Wack Christensen as Lehi edged Olympus 4-3 in Game 2 to complete the sweep in the best-of-3 5A state championship series.
“Just trying to shorten up and go up the middle with, put something up the middle,” said Evans about his mentality heading to the plate.
The first six innings of Game 2 at UVU flew by as starting pitchers Ashton Johnson and Maddox Madsen both dominated.
The seventh and eighth innings, however, featured intense situational baseball in which every pitch had big implications.
Evans’ at-bat proved to be the most significant, but just as significant was Christensen standing on first base.
He’d reached base after getting plunked in the helmet with an errant curve ball. Lehi by nature is aggressive on base paths, and the coaching staff was absolutely going to try to get him to steal second.
“We’ve got to get him in scoring position ‘cause we have guys behind him who are going to hit him in. … We’ve been doing that all year. We’re not going to change anything, and it worked out for us,” said Ingersoll.
That set the stage for Evans, who in the half inning before kept Olympus off the scoreboard after coming on in relief of Madsen who reached his pitch count limit.
When Evans lined his single up the middle, Ingersoll didn’t hesitate to send Christensen as he rounded third.
The throw from center field got there about the same time, but it skipped off the turf and was too hot to handle as Christensen slid home for the winning run.
“When he crossed the plate I was looking for someone to pile drive and spear and have a little fun with. It’s hard to win,” said Ingersoll, whose team went a perfect 7-0 in the playoffs.
Olympus struck first in the third inning with an RBI single from Luke Affleck, but Lehi answered right back in its half of the third on a sac fly to left field by Jackson Brousseau, tying it 1-1.
In the fourth, Lehi went ahead 3-1 as Boston Bingham led off the inning with a double to deep center and scored one batter later on a towering shot over the center field fence by Christensen.
With the way Madsen was pitching, the two-run lead felt like a 10-run advantage. After Olympus’ RBI single in the third, Madsen had retired 10 of 11 batters, with the lone base runner coming on a walk.
With Olympus’ 7-8-9 hitters due up in the seventh, Madsen was excited about closing out the championship.
“I felt like those first six innings I was just dealing and then in the seventh I felt no pressure and then all of the sudden I started getting hit,” said Madsen, who won a state title with American Fork last season.
JD Olson led off the top of the seventh with a single, and Olympus coach Corland Felts didn’t hesitate sacrifice bunting him to second despite the 3-1 deficit.
Olson moved to third on Isaac Hodgson’s single to center, and then scored on Mic Paul’s ensuing single to right making it a 3-2 game.
Olympus tied it 3-3 one batter later on Johnson’s sac fly to left, scoring Hodgson.
Madsen got the final out on a flyout, but the damage was done. There was no panic though.
“We talked all week about not panicking. We have a panic button that we’re not going to push,” he said.
Lehi threatened to win it in the last of the seventh after back-to-back singles from Braden Willes and McGuire Madsen and then a stolen base by Madsen put runners at second and third with one out.
Olympus starter Johnson, however, forced a line out to shortstop and then a flyout to deep right to force extra innings.
“Olympus is good. We’ve been watching them. They don’t go away. Hats off to them. They play hard, real hard,” said Ingersoll.
Olympus carried the momentum into the eighth inning. Affleck led off with a double that just missed clearing the left-field fence by two feet.
Corbin Sanchez followed by reaching on a hit batter as reliever Evans dealt with early command issues.
The Titans bunted the base runners to second and third — creating identical situation to what Lehi faced the inning before with one out.
Lehi’s coaches had a hunch Olympus might try to squeeze in the go-ahead run and called for a pitch out.
Maddux Madsen, who’d moved to catcher after exiting as the starting pitcher, gunned out the Olympus base runner trying to return to third base for the second out of the inning.
Evans followed with a strikeout for the final out as the Pioneers regained momentum heading into their decisive half of the eighth inning.
“He’s a Division I quarterback for a reason,” Ingersoll said of Madsen, who is committed to Boise State.
“The leadership he brought over, it just kind of catapulted us and we just never looked back. He’s a natural leader.”