Defense wins championships, and in baseball it wins brownie points with the fans.
Football and basketball are so dependent on offense to carry the sports. We want to see gunslinger quarterbacks rack up the yards and the points, and we want to see LeBron James and Kevin Durant rain 3s and throw down awesome jams.
But in baseball, defense makes games move quickly and smoothly. Seeing a properly executed double play is just as pleasing to the eye as any Blake Griffin dunk.
Watching a curve ball start at the top left corner of the strike zone and end at the bottom right corner makes me just as giddy as if I watched Tom Brady throw a 40-yard playaction touchdown pass.
The Tooele Buffaloes defeated Ogden on Tuesday with great defense and just enough offense to squeak out a win. Sure, they made errors just like any high school players would make, but their sound defense coupled with solid pitching from junior Braden Furgeson made for a more impressive win than if they blasted 15 hits and scored 10 runs.
And Furgeson got batters out in Greg Maddux fashion. He recorded just one strikeout against Ogden, and instead he used different pitches to keep hitters guessing and force them to put the ball in play. They hit it right to the Buffalo fielders for outs.
Just like how Maddux used his 2-seam fastball and splitter to get batters to hit the ball right to his fielders, Furgeson used his fastball, changeup and curve ball to force flyouts and groundouts. He gave up a few hits and a couple of runs, but so did Maddux during his Major League career. To pitch this way shows the ultimate trust in teammates, and any fielders will tell you they love playing for a pitcher who puts the ball in play and keeps pitch counts low.
It’s this style of play that moves a baseball game along and creates tense moments in the later innings. The players are sharper and put their best feet forward.
With runners on first and second base and one out, the Tooele fielders had their best play in a game filled with great defensive plays. After successfully recording the first out, first baseman Braiden Bell stretched out and closed his glove over the ball flying to him from second base. The umpire made the “out” signal, and the Buffs celebrated as if they had just won the state championship.
It’s been a tough start to the season for a team with just two seniors on the roster. These Buffs are still trying to figure out a few things, and they’ll still likely lose more region games than they win.
However, if they make a run at the playoffs and challenge the likes of Grantsville and Ogden for those last two spots, then the blueprint from the win against Ogden will be how they do it. They need to play low-scoring games and keep opposing hitters from getting extra-base hits.
If there’s one thing we learned from the Buffs on Tuesday, it’s that they are pretty good when they force teams to play their style. And the flow of their games creates an interesting product to watch.