Expectations are sky-high for the Tooele County Bears this summer, but sometimes, things just don’t go as planned.
Wednesday night at Dow James Memorial Park was the Bears’ worst outing of the American Legion baseball season so far, as they committed five errors and stranded 12 runners on base in a 5-3, nine-inning loss to Herriman — Tooele County’s first loss of the summer. However, coach Nolan Stouder was able to see the positive side of things.
“It just shows the talent of this team that we made five errors and we weren’t swinging it as well as we usually do, and definitely not fielding it, but we took (Herriman) — a really good team — to extra innings,” Stouder said. “I’m not worried. The next time we get them, I expect to see a whole different ball club and a different outcome, as well.”
The Bears squandered a dominant pitching performance from starter Gage Miller, who gave up just one earned run on five hits with three strikeouts and two walks in five innings. Reliever Payton Shields gave up no earned runs on a single hit in four innings, striking out three and walking three.
“They threw excellent, man,” Stouder said. “They kept those guys off-balance all day and they filled it up with first-pitch strikes. They filled it up with fastballs, controlling it and then dumping in those breaking balls when they needed it. That’s four games that we’ve been dealing.”
The game started well for the Bears, who took a 1-0 lead on Griffen Bate’s two-out RBI double to left-center that drove in Austin Woodhouse in the bottom of the first inning. However, the errors started to haunt Tooele County in the top of the third, as Herriman scored three runs — two of which were unearned, as a pair of throwing errors extended the inning and helped lead to a two-run single by Herriman’s Bryson Clayton.
However, Miller and Shields slammed the door from there, giving the Bears a chance to come back. They cut the lead to 3-2 in the sixth inning with a patient approach at the plate, loading the bases on a fielder’s choice by Cache Bentley and back-to-back walks by Woodhouse and Dalton Harris to set up a sacrifice fly by Cayden Clark.
In the seventh inning, a baserunning mistake actually worked in the Bears’ favor to tie the game. Brett Porthan led off the inning with a single to shallow right, and he advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Shields. Two batters later, Connor Spindler hit a ground ball to second base, but the Herriman fielder hesitated for a split-second as Spindler headed to first base and Porthan sprinted toward third.
Coaches signaled for Porthan to stop at third base, but he sprinted past the stop sign and continued toward home plate. He managed to beat the throw, tying the score at 3-3 and sending the game to extra innings.
“A bad read, but it works in our favor,” Stouder said. “It’s about time. I felt like we didn’t get one of those during the high school season that went our way. If we made a mistake on the bases, it felt like it was 100 percent that we got out. It’s nice to see that go our way.”
Herriman regained the lead in the ninth inning, with a fielding error allowing the leadoff hitter to reach base. A walk and a sacrifice bunt led to an RBI single by Clayton and a sacrifice fly by Cody Atkinson. Herriman reliever Brittan Rose then retired the Bears in order in the bottom of the ninth to seal the victory for the Mustangs.
Atkinson and Rose were able to work their way out of several jams throughout the evening, as the Bears stranded seven runners in scoring position. In the second and third innings, the Bears loaded the bases, only to come away empty-handed both times.
Atkinson allowed a single run on three hits, seven walks and a hit batter with nine strikeouts in five innings for Herriman. Rose, who was the winning pitcher, allowed two earned runs on two hits with three walks in four innings.
The Bears will be back in action Saturday in Sandy with a doubleheader against Alta. The first game starts at 11 a.m.