By Bradey King
The Arizona Spring Championships wrapped up pool play on Saturday, and in the 11uD2 mix was Northmen (UT) and CBA Sacramento Titans. These squads were evenly matched, and the final score is proof. But it was the Northmen who walked away with the 13-12 victory and earned their second win of the tournament.
Northmen head coach Clayne Garrett said it was his northern Utah teams’ third time playing outside this year, but witnessing their strength with the sticks, you couldn’t tell.
“The boys did a good job, we battled, and we made some mistakes that we’ll clean up as we play more games,” Garrett said. “For the first couple days out, I’m really proud of them.”
The Northmen finished with 13 hits as a team, including seven doubles. The team was consistent, too, scoring multiple runs in every inning.
“We’re fortunate to have a couple nice facilities (in Utah) so we get a lot of swings in, we just don’t get outside,” Garrett added. “So, hitting we usually can swing it a little bit; we struggle on the other side of the ball.”
Those indoor BP sessions paid off Saturday, especially for coach’s son Grady Garrett. Grady went 2-for-3 at the dish with two RBI.
“I felt confident and the confidence comes from just believing in myself and batting practice, getting lots of reps,” Grady said. “We’re a good team and we’re all good guys.”
Grady’s stellar outing was matched by his teammates. Easton Pratt, Brodie Deal, and Crew Denning all had two hits.
The defensive struggles coach Garrett mentioned referred to the four Northmen pitchers combining for 10 walks and giving up seven hits. The defense also had a few errors. Despite all of this, Luke Penland took the mound with poise in the fifth and final inning with a one out, bases loaded situation.
“I was just thinking positive,” Penland said, “to just aim small, miss small.”
Penland was able to turn this pressure situation into a positive outcome. He got a fly ball for out number two and clinched the save by striking out the Titans cleanup hitter, who launched a home run in his previous at-bat.
“It was pretty exciting to end the game and win the game striking him out,” Penland smiled. “We’re gonna come out excited and try to win tomorrow.”
On top of Penland’s pitching performance, he also went 2-for-3 with an RBI.