OREM — The middle of March within the state of Utah doesn’t typically bring ideal baseball conditions, although Tuesday’s game between 4A defending champion Timpanogos and Maple Mountain would certainly stand as an exception.
Unfortunately for Timpanogos coach Kim Nelson, his team’s overall play certainly didn’t match the mid-70s temperatures in northern Orem. Sure, his team managed a 9-7 win over the Golden Eagles, but it committed too many errors and otherwise sloppy play for the longtime coach’s liking, although he understands it somewhat comes with the territory.
“When you’re playing in this state, it’s got to be expected to be like that in some ways,” Nelson said. “I mean, we haven’t even been outside that much — let alone face a good pitcher who can really change things up and make things difficult.”
Nelson’s biggest disappointment came with how many bases his pitchers and defense allowed on the afternoon, whether they came from bases on balls, errors or otherwise.
“We can’t be a good team and give up that much,” he said.
Admittedly, Nelson’s and Timpanogos’ expectations are necessarily higher for the 2017 season than most seasons due to returning several standout players from last year’s team.
Central among those standouts is returning 4A MVP Tyler Cornish, who approached the plate in the bottom of the sixth on Tuesday with the game tied at 6-6 and with two outs. With runners on second and third, the senior roped a ball to centerfield for a two-RBI triple — pushing the score to 8-6.
“That was obviously the difference — right there,” Nelson said. “He’s batting third in the order for a reason. We expect him to do those things.”
As for Cornish, he felt a pitch may be coming within his wheelhouse after two straight pitches to the outside, “I heard my coach say to stay with it, so I just did that and fortunately good things happened,” Cornish said.
Maple Mountain didn’t go quietly, and did manage a bit of rally in the top of the seventh but came up just short.
Although it’s still very early in the year, Timpanogos didn’t take Tuesday’s win for granted, when considering the opponent.
“We saw their best pitchers and that’s a very good team, so yeah, this is a good win we can build off of,” Cornish said.
As for Nelson, he’s hoping for continued improvement after just the second game played this year.
“Considering what we have coming back, you hope to start at a level and get better from there,” Nelson said. “After today it’s easy to see that we have a lot of work to do, but I don’t know of any coach who doesn’t feel that way at this time of the year. But I liked how we battled — that’s the good thing we can take away from this one.”
Timpanogos improves to 2-0 on the year with the win and will now spend the better part of March playing non-region games in St. George before embarking on Region 7 play. Maple Mountain drops to 3-3 with the loss and will next take on Westlake.