PLEASANT GROVE — Pleasant Grove coach Darrin Henry gave a simple directive to his team entering the bottom of the seventh inning and his players responded to it quite well. Down 5-3, and not having scored any runs since the third inning, the Vikings plated three runners to come away with a big 6-5 Region 4 win on Wednesday.
“I just told the guys to relax and to let their talent shine,” Henry said of his message entering the bottom of the seventh. “That’s what we do, and that’s what we’ve done in Pleasant Grove baseball for a long time.”
Senior Kaino Pula provided the walk-off RBI hit, sending a ball through the infield — allowing two runners to score.
Pula came to the plate with one out and the bases loaded, knowing he’d get some good pitches to hit given the situation.
“I knew I’d get some strikes and if got one down the middle I just wanted to get on it,” Pula said. “Even though I rolled over the one I did get, I got a good hop on it to get over the third baseman’s head.”
Pula’s heroics aside, the Vikings got a lot of help from the Pioneers to help set the table. Two critical errors were committed in the inning to load the bases and then to score the first run, which cut Lehi’s lead to 5-4.
Up until those two errors from the Pioneers, Wednesday’s game was well-played by both sides with smooth defensive execution put forth from most every position.
Leading the way were the two starting pitchers — Staley Hansgen for the Vikings and Devin Smith for the Pioneers.
Smith struck out 12 batters over 5 1/3 innings, while Hansgen did largely what coaches asked of him.
“He threw strikes and that’s all we asked him to do,” Henry said. “He battled out there, the sun was beating on us out there, and he gave it all he had. Both pitchers did. That’s a great pitcher they have over there.”
With the win, Pleasant Grove improves to 5-1 in Region 4 play after winning two straight over Lehi after being squashed 10-0 by the Pioneers on Monday.
“That was hard for us, but I think we took it upon ourselves to get better and we got behind each other and did it,” Pula said.
Pleasant Grove took Tuesday’s win 17-7 before gutting out Wednesday’s win.
“It felt very good and it was for the team. The team did it and it all started with that first base runner and then we (rolled) from there,” Pula said. “We came in with the mindset after Monday that we weren’t going to let it happen again.”
As for Henry, he’ll take a lot of confidence from the two straight wins over Lehi, considering the relative youth of his team.
“We’re trying to find out if we have character and if we have leaders, and they sure were this week. So it’s awesome,” Henry said.
Next up for Pleasant Grove is a three-game set with American Fork next week. Lehi, which falls to 1-5 in Region 4 play with the loss, will attempt to get on track with a three-game set against Herriman.