HIGHLAND The Lone Peak baseball team set off its own playoff celebration and simultaneously broke the hearts of two of its region rivals on Wednesday.
The Knights booked their spot in the 5A state tournament with a 3-1 win over Spanish Fork. The victory locked them into the fourth place in Region 4, while it eliminated Pleasant Grove and Mountain View from tournament contention.
Lone Peak didn't waste any time feeling sorry for the teams left out, though. In a region with brutal parity, just earning one of the four playoff spots was like climbing a mountain.
"We just wanted to get to the state tournament," said Lone Peak coach Danny Schoonover. "Everybody says our region is tough. There's going to be two good teams out of your region staying home that could do some serious damage in this thing. We just wanted to be one of them that was going. It didn't matter where we placed."
The Knights were on shaky ground after losing to Spanish Fork on Monday. Another loss to the Dons would have forced them into a play-in game for the last playoff spot. But a Daniel Welch two-hitter and some timely at-bats were enough to get the necessary win.
"When (Welch) throws strikes he does not get hit on," said Schoonover. "He fired me up for about four innings. I had to make two visits early to see what he was thinking. But when he decided to get out there and compete, he finally did it."
In the bottom of the first, Scott LeFrandt singled and was then brought home on a long double by Max Harris, who also scored on an error.
For the next six innings, Welch had some shaky moments but was able to keep control of the game and get the outs when they were needed most. The left-hander walked six batters and faced bases-loaded situations three times, but still only allowed two hits.
Spanish Fork finally made a move offensively in the sixth inning. With two outs, back-to-back singles by Rhet Nielsen and John Wessel put a run on the board, and another walk left the bases loaded at the top of the order, but Welch forced a fly-out to minimized the damage.
In the bottom of the inning, Harris blasted the lead-off pitch over the fence for an insurance run.
The game ended on a great defensive play by third baseman Brennan Holmstead. With one out and two on in the seventh, Holmstead managed to knock down a hard shot by Kirt Daley, then tag the base and throw to first for the double play.