The way Wednesday’s game against Brighton ended was a new experience for Tooele baseball coach Nolan Stouder.
His Buffaloes were one out away from beating Brighton in their final home game of the summer on Wednesday at Dow James Park. Then, Tooele relief pitcher Dalton Harris was called for a balk as a Brighton runner attempted to steal home, apparently allowing the Bengals to tie the game with two outs in the top of the seventh inning as daylight quickly faded. The home-plate umpire immediately called the game because of the impending darkness, leaving both teams believing the contest would end in a 10-10 tie.
But since the Buffaloes didn’t get their final at-bats as a result of the game being called, the score reverted to the end of the last completed inning, meaning Brighton’s seventh-inning rally never really happened and giving Tooele a 10-8 victory.
“Shoot, I’ve never seen anything like that,” Stouder said.
Regardless of how Tooele’s win came about, Stouder was pleased with the effort the Buffs (8-5-1 in summer league play) showed. They were coming off of a tough 12-4 loss to Hunter on Monday, and had lost three of their previous four games overall.
“The last couple weeks, I’ve been pretty disappointed in how we went about things,” Stouder said. “Energy, effort, playing — just overall, I’ve been really disappointed. With the level I’m trying to get these guys to play at, it was unacceptable, and we’ve been preaching to them that it takes every player, whether you’re on the bench or on the field, to bring that energy to make a good team and make a successful program.”
Things didn’t get off to a good start for the Buffs on Wednesday, who fell behind 4-0 in the top of the first inning as Brighton (4-6-1) teed off on Tooele starting pitcher Jaxson Miner for five hits. However, instead of rolling over, the Buffaloes responded, cutting the lead to 4-2 on the strength of four consecutive singles in the bottom of the frame.
Brighton stretched the lead to 6-2 with runs in the second and third innings, but Tooele’s bats came to life after that while the Bengals struggled in the field. Four Brighton errors in the bottom of the third allowed the Buffs to scrape together two runs despite not having a hit in the inning, and two more errors and a two-run single by Austin Hansen in the bottom of the fourth put Tooele up 7-6.
“We had a little bit of a hangover from Monday, when we kind of got our butts kicked,” Stouder said. “That first inning, I think we had a a little hangover, but the bottom of the first inning, we got our bats rolling and I think we realized, ‘whoa, we are a good team.’ Confidence is what we’ve got to have.”
Tooele added three more runs in the fifth. Payton Shields led off with a double to left field. Tyler Beer reached base on an attempted sacrifice bunt that resulted in a Brighton throwing error, allowing Shields to score. Beer then scored on a Jake Lopez bloop double down the right-field line, and Lopez came around to score on a balk and a wild pitch that put Tooele up 10-7.
Stouder said he has been impressed with his team’s growth this summer, particularly after a trying high school season that saw the Buffs win just one game.
“I know we’re missing some guys, but the guys who have come out here and given their summer to get better on the ball field have impressed me,” Stouder said. “I like their work ethic. As long as that translates down from the seniors to the juniors, from the juniors to the sophomores and so on, we’re going to build a good program. It’s going to be hard to beat once we get all the wheels rolling at the same time.”
Tooele wrapped up summer-league play with a road game Thursday night in Magna against Cyprus. The game was not complete at press time.