OREM — Spanish Fork's Maverick Buffo had a great opportunity to earn redemption Wednesday evening.
He seized the opportunity.
Fresh off a disappointing outing as the starter in a 6-0 loss to Mountain Crest the night before, the senior hurler upped his game considerably in relief to lead Spanish Fork to a 6-4 extra-innings win over Box Elder Wednesday that keeps the Dons alive in the 4A state tournament.
"I wanted to redeem myself really, really bad tonight," Buffo said. "I came in out of the bullpen and knew I had to give it everything I had."
Buffo entered the game in the third inning in a very tight spot. Box Elder had jumped out to a 3-0 lead and had the bases loaded with no outs when Spanish Fork coach Shoe Nelson summoned his star to the mound.
Two strikeouts and a pop fly to first later and Spanish Fork was out of the jam and remained well within striking distance.
The Dons waited awhile to finally strike, but did so with a four-run sixth inning to tie things at 4-4.
"We have a team of competitors who don't know how to give up," Nelson said. "We finally got some hard hits through, got a break on an error and got rolling. I actually thought we should have had more in that inning, but fortunately we got going there."
From there, Buffo closed things out with three straight outs — including two strikeouts.
"That was an amazing feeling to be in there at that moment," Buffo said. "Hearing the crowd get loud and getting those last outs, it was just an amazing feeling and I'm happy I could do it for the team. I couldn't have done it without them."
Buffo finished the game with 11 strikeouts through seven innings while allowing just one run on four hits and no walks.
"He was our MVP tonight, no question," Nelson said of Buffo. "I couldn't be prouder of the character he showed coming back like that. He obviously got some great defensive help behind him and that made it the complete team effort you love to see as a coach."
With the win, Spanish Fork advances as one of the final three teams left in the tournament and will take on the loser of Bountiful vs. Mountain Crest Thursday at Brent Brown Ballpark.
"We obviously like where we're at," Nelson said. "We were fortunate to beat a great team tonight and it's going to be just as tough (Thursday). When you get into the losers bracket it's all about surviving and we've survived to this point."