The 6A baseball state championship series ended Saturday evening when No. 3 Riverton defeated No. 5 American Fork 8-3 at Utah Valley University in the final game of the best of three series. The win marked the Silverwolves’ second victory over the Cavemen on the day, and resulted in the biggest triumph in program history.
“Nobody has any idea of what the coaching staff and what these players have gone through,” Riverton head coach Jay Applegate said. “The determination and the grit … it’s a testament to what these guys are on and off the field.”
On the field Riverton was spectacular Saturday, beating American Fork 18-8 in just five innings in the afternoon to force Game 3 in the evening.
Riverton kept its offense humming at the beginning of Game 3, scoring six runs in the third to take a 6-0 lead. The Silverwolves had their way in the inning, going through six batters before getting their first out. With the bases loaded, sophomore designated hitter Zach Edwards connected for a grand slam over the left field wall.
“It just happened,” Edwards said of his grand slam. “I was just hoping to put something in play. Get something (to) help my team out.”
Edwards helped his team to a comfortable victory, the school’s first state baseball championship in its history.
Riverton’s defense was pivotal to the Silverwolves’ first state championship, having to escape danger on multiple occasions Saturday evening.
American Fork threatened to score in the third after drawing three walks to load the bases with two outs. Riverton starting pitcher Carson Moody calmly worked his way out of the jam with a strikeout, preserving his team’s six point lead.
The Cavemen again showed signs of life in the fourth, scoring their first run of the game on a Dax Watts single to center field that brought pinch runner Sawyer Hardman home. With American Fork baserunners on first and second, Riverton senior shortstop Sam Beck spoiled the rest of the inning for the Cavemen in one fell swoop with a triple play. The BYU commit caught a line drive, stepped on second, and threw to first to complete the split second play.
“I was playing up the middle,” Beck said when asked about his triple play. “He just hit the line drive right at me and both guys on first and second were way off the bag, so I just touched second, threw it to first.”
Beck’s quick thinking helped his team hold the Cavemen to just one run. But American Fork kept the pressure on, putting multiple runners on in the next two innings. The Cavemen scored one run in the fifth, but Riverton sophomore reliever Dylan Zullo produced another Silverwolves’ strikeout with the bases loaded in the sixth to hold the 2021 state champs scoreless on the inning.
The soon-to-be-crowned state champions added two runs of their own in the seventh, giving themselves a comfortable cushion heading into the bottom of the inning. With a six point advantage, the Silverwolves had no need to panic when Cavemen senior center fielder Kaden Carpenter sent the ball for a ride on a two out solo shot to center field. One out later, Riverton was state champions.
The Silverwolves’ two victories Saturday were hardly competitive. Riverton’s offense was unstoppable in the first game of the day as it used five hits, a batter hit by a pitch, and five walks to score eight runs in the second. The Cavemen answered with a six run third to get back into the contest, but never could recover after the Silverwolves added seven runs in the fourth on four more hits, two walks, and two batters hit by pitches.
When all was said and done, Game 2 saw the Cavemen pitchers walk 10 batters on balls and hit four others, putting a constant stream of Silverwolves’ runners on base for Riverton to hit home.
The initial game of the series could not have been more different as the Silverwolves lost a 3-2 pitching duel to American Fork Friday, giving the Cavemen a 1-0 series lead heading into Saturday’s contests. Riverton missed a golden opportunity to win Game 1 when they were unable to score with the bases loaded in the seventh.
Edwards said getting on the bus Friday night, the team’s message for each other was to hold their heads high because the series was not over.
Two games later it is, and Riverton is holding its heads higher than ever.