5A baseball: Maple Mountain closes out Brighton for 1st state title

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OREM — Turning to a sophomore pitcher with four games of varsity experience in Game 2 of the 5A state championship series may have seemed like a risky move for some baseball teams.

But Maple Mountain knew exactly what it had with Cayden Giles.

The 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore threw four strikeouts while retiring every batter he faced over a little more than three innings to help the Golden Eagles to their first baseball title in school history with a 7-4 win over top-seeded Brighton.

AJ Thomas went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored, and Logan Bringhurst was 2-for-4 with an RBI double and a stolen base as Maple Mountain (28-4) score five runs in the first two innings to give Giles, starter Blake Carter and closer Bennett Averett all the run support they would need.

The trio combined to scatter four earned runs on six hits with nine strikeouts.

"Our coach has told us we were the best team in 5A, and we stuck with it," Giles said. "We knew if we kept the same process and did what we do, we would come out with the win. That's exactly what happened.

"It means a lot, really," he added of the program's first state championship. "But there's a lot more to come."

Giles, who carried a 0.74 ERA with the Golden Eagles' JV squad, pitched four games with the varsity team and finished with a 1-1 record before getting the full-time callup ahead of the playoffs.

When his number was called, Giles was ready.

"We kind of knew that he had that bulldog in him. We knew he was going to throw strikes," Maple Mountain coach Jeremy Thomas said. "He just consistently pounded the zone, and we knew if we could get a guy to throw strikes and get balls put in play — our defense would make plays. He did exactly what we were hoping he would do and gave us a chance to get Bennett (Averett, Maple Mountain's closer) in there."

But was he nervous?

"I definitely was. There are a lot of people here, and it definitely gets to you. But it's between me and my catcher, and that's all I thought about: us two out there."

Bringhurst struck first for Maple Mountain with an RBI double to open the game. But Brighton responded in the bottom of the first when Cooper Scott drove in two with a triple to take a 2-1 early lead.

But the Golden Eagles came back with four runs on one hit in the second, taking advantage of four walks and a hit batsman with Thomas' two-run single to take a 5-2 lead after an hour-long weather delay.

"With kids these days, they just sat in there and did their own thing, kind of relaxed," Thomas said of the break. "To me, I think the coaches were way more nervous than they were. We were trying to keep ourselves calm, but those guys were relaxed, and I think they felt like they had it the whole time."

Maple Mountain held Brighton to one run over the next four innings, including a middle innings appearance by Giles. Sawyer Leifson stretched the lead to 7-3 with a two-run double in the top of the sixth, and Averett closed out the final frame to clinch the Eagles' first title in program history one day after a 12-9 win in Game 1 of the championship series.

"Our middle guys have come in all season and gotten guys out, and then Bennett has been as reliable a closer as they come all year," Thomas said. "He came in and got it done. Fantastic.

"They all wanted it, and they all wanted it bad, and they had one goal in mind: to be the state champions," he added. "The hard work paid off today."

Cooper Scott went 3-for-4 with a triple, two RBI and a run scored for the Bengals (27-5), who gave up six walks and left 10 runners on base.


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