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Baseball makes first-ever semifinal

The Pioneers defeat Marist 3-2 on a walk-off walk by Cody Welty to earn a spot in the semis


by: SANDY POST: PARKER LEE - Sandy players dogpile in the center of the field after Fridays 3-2 win over Marist in the 5A quarterfinals. Throughout the season, Sandy catcher Cody Welty has been one of the team’s most dangerous hitters when he swings the bat. In Friday’s 5A quarterfinal matchup against Marist, Welty was just as lethal at the plate by not swinging at all.

Welty drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the eighth inning to push the Pioneers to a 3-2 walk-off win and a place in the state semifinals for the first time in program history.

“He went up there with an absolutely perfect approach,” Sandy coach Rick Martin said. “He knew he was going to come through for us. I could see it in his eyes.”

Welty and the Pioneers were in position to win it in extra innings primarily because of starting pitcher Darin Lort. Lort surrendered two doubles and a run in the opening inning, but he settled in and kept the Spartans off the scoreboard for five straight innings after that.

“After that first inning, I had to just tell myself I was better than them,” Lort said. “Once I got in my zone, I knew I could dominate.”

Lort and Sandy went into the top of the seventh inning with a 2-1 lead, three outs away from the win. After Marist earned a leadoff single, Lort got the next hitter to pop up to the catcher on a sacrifice attempt for the first out.

Martin then opted to move third baseman Carson Dwyre – who pitched seven innings the day before – to the mound to try and close out the game. The Spartans worked a walk and a single to load the bases. Marist’s Dustyn Smith then walked to force home the tying run. Dwyre struck out the next two batters, but the damage had been done.

“I made a horrible decision taking Darin out,” Martin said. “He has done everything I have asked him to do all year, and he has been nails.”

After seeing what happened to Sandy when it pulled its starter in the seventh, the Spartans made the same mistake in the eighth, and the result was almost identical.

Pioneer nine-hitter Mitchell Lovely opened the bottom of the eighth with a two-strike single into left field that was just out of reach of Marist shortstop Marcus Lydon. His single got the Marist coaching staff to think about making a change.

“I was just thinking ‘I’ve got to make it happen,’” Lovely said. “The pressure was on with two strikes, but you just have to keep your head up and buckle down. It’s exciting being up there with all that pressure.”

Bryce Tilton moved Lovely into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Marist then yanked starter Cameron Jack and brought in lefty Tanner Cantwell. Cantwell immediately plunked Sandy’s Nick Martin and Kyle Stipe to bump up the potential winning run to third base.

Welty then came up with a chance to record his second walk-off hit of the season. The Sandy cleanup man had already been efficient in the batter’s box, despite only taking one swing in his first three plate appearances. Welty was hit by pitch with the bases loaded in the first inning and was walked in the third.

He carried that same patient mindset into his final at-bat and took the first two pitches for balls. A called strike and another ball followed. The 3-1 offering from Cantwell was low and outside, and Welty was able to lay off it to force home Lovely. The Pioneers stopped at home briefly to congratulate Lovely on their way to first base where they mobbed Welty.

“‘Cody again.’ That was my first thought. We live to fight another day,” Lovely said. “This isn’t the last game we get to play. Let’s bring it to Sherwood and win another game.”

Sandy savored its quarterfinal win for the remainder of the evening on Friday, but the team refocused and got back to work on Saturday morning. By defeating Marist, the Pioneers earned a date with conference-foe Sherwood in the semifinals on Tuesday. The Bowmen – winners of last season’s state title – won both regular season meetings against the Pioneers.

Sherwood and Sandy entered the game as the two hottest teams in the 5A ranks. The Pioneers had won 16 of their previous 17 contests and the Bowmen went in riding a 19-game winning streak. Sherwood sent NWOC pitcher of the year Riley Moore to the mound while Sandy started Dwyre. In his previous two starts, Dwyre allowed just three hits in 14 innings.