It may have been a summer-league game in mid-June with nothing much on the line, but nobody told the Tooele and Grantsville baseball teams.
The cross-county rivals met Monday night in Grantsville with the intensity level ratcheted up a notch or two from a typical summer-league contest. Tooele prevailed 12-0 in six innings, thanks to a relentless offensive attack that blew the game open and a rock-solid pitching performance from Payton Shields, who threw a complete-game shutout.
“We were playing our hometown rivals, so we wanted to come out hot,” Shields said. “As soon as I found out I was starting, from the get-go, I wanted to be there. We want to beat these guys and we didn’t get to play them in the regular season, so we definitely wanted it tonight.
“Some of these guys are our lifelong buddies, and we always push every year to beat these guys because you know you’re going to see them the next day. It just drives us because we’ve known these guys from a young age.”
Tooele (4-2 in summer league) is coming off its most successful high school season in recent memory, advancing to the postseason this past spring and finishing third in Region 11 behind two solid programs in Juan Diego and Park City. But the Buffaloes aren’t content with merely making it to the playoffs — they’re hoping to take the next step when the regular season rolls around again in March, and as a senior, Shields hopes to help lead them there.
“We had a great season last season, so we’re looking to move forward from that and build, and hopefully have an even better season next year,” Shields said. “That’s a priority for me. I take pride in trying to be a leader every day. One thing that we stress with the Tooele ballclub is that we’re going to get better every time we step on the field, and I think we’re definitely getting better and it’s starting to show.”
Monday’s game marked the Buffs’ third shutout in their four wins this summer. They also shut out Granger 21-0 and beat West Jordan 14-0. Tooele’s other victory was an 11-8 triumph over Herriman, and the Buffs currently sit sixth in the 20-team Salt Lake County-based summer league.
“Little things are starting to pull together,” Shields said.
On the other side, Grantsville (5-2) struggled in the field, with errors proving costly against a motivated rival. The loss was the Cowboys’ second in as many games, and they’ve allowed 24 runs in their past two outings.
They hope to get the ship righted Wednesday at home against West Jordan, with another home game Friday against Kearns. Tooele will play host to Stansbury on Wednesday and Hunter on Friday.