Hillcrest junior pitcher Carson Vayhinger allowed one hit over the final five innings to help propel the Rams to a 6-1 victory over Dutch Fork on Monday night in a Class 4A, District II elimination game.
Vayhinger allowed four base runners over that span and only one reached third.
“Number four (Vayhinger) pitched his heart out,” second-year Dutch Fork coach Casey Waites said. “He wasn’t really dominant with his stuff, but we didn’t put many good swings on it. He hit his spots, threw his curveball and slider for strikes and stayed in command. It was an outstanding performance in a tough situation.”
Hillcrest coach Drew Mahoney liked the way Vayhinger came in with his team trailing and took command from the outset. It’s the type of performance that Vayhinger has delivered down the stretch.
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“He was huge,” Mahoney said. “He’s gotten an opportunity to pitch a good bit down the stretch, and he’s made the most of it. He wasn’t overpowering, but he had command of all his pitches that kept the Dutch Fork guys off-balance.”
The Rams (13-12) will face Northwestern on Wednesday. Hillcrest would need to win twice to advance out of the district playoffs. The Trojans are undefeated in district play and need one win to advance.
The Silver Foxes managed two hits in the game. They scored their lone run in the second off starter Cole Phillips on an error, a double from Zack Ziesing and a fielder’s choice ground out by Josh Carter. They had the bases loaded with no outs and scratched across one run.
Hillcrest scored all the runs it would need in the fourth. After Dutch Fork took the 1-0 lead, the Rams answered with an RBI groundout by Nate Calvert in the third. They broke it open in the fourth with three runs. A walk, a single and another walk loaded the bases with one out.
Brady Thackson, the No. 8 hitter in the lineup, hit a fly ball to the gap in center, but Lane Ecton couldn’t come up with the catch, allowing the first run to score. Trotter Harlan followed with an RBI single before Casen Mansel added a sacrifice fly to score a run.
The bottom three hitters in the Hillcrest lineup accounted for half of the Rams’ eight hits.
“Whenever you can get production from the bottom of the lineup like we did tonight, it takes the pressure off,” Mahoney said. “Those guys delivered some key hits in crucial situations. That was really nice to see.”
Dutch Fork ends the season 20-6 after winning the Region 4-4A championship during the regular season.
“I’m proud of the seniors and the success we had,” Waites said. “We’re trying to take our program to another level, and hopefully this season and what we were able to accomplish is a step in the right direction.”
WP: Carson Vayhinger. LP: Jordan Beatson. Hitters: (H) Trotter Harlan 2-2; Austin Garrett 2B; (DF) Zack Ziesing 2B.