Is hot start a sign for Spanish Fork baseball?Mar 21, 2014
By Neil Warner (aka, The Great Zuke)
There are a few things you are not likely to see when watching a Spanish Fork baseball game this year.
A game that lasts longer than five innings.
Maverick Buffo giving up a run.
Hayes Hall being kept off base.
Brady Bate stranding runners in scoring position.
Several prep baseball teams are off to hot starts so far this year. Salem Hills is 6-1, Skyline is 7-3, Maple Mountain is 8-2 and Wasatch is 6-2 but no one has been more dominating than Spanish Fork.
The Dons started 7-0, but what is really incredible is the way they’ve been winning. They 10-runned their first six opponents and they have four shutouts.
If that doesn’t impress you, consider this: Spanish Fork outscored its first seven opponents by a whopping 98-6. Just to prove it was human, Spanish Fork gave up a seven-run seventh inning against Bingham in losing Game 8 of the season to the defending 5A champions Friday, but that does not diminish the overall story so far.
This kind of domination just doesn’t happen in baseball. No team can keep up this pace, but these Dons could be on the brink of something very special.
“I’ve had four or five coaches tell me that this is the best Spanish Fork team they have ever seen but that needs to play out,” said Spanish Fork coach Jim Nelson.
For Spanish Fork, it starts with pitching and a team ERA of 0.56. The Dons are usually loaded with arms, and this year is no exception. Nelson’s biggest problem might be getting all of his pitchers enough innings.
Buffo is the team’s ace. His fastball has been clocked as high as 94 and he has consistently been in the low 90’s. He’s 3-0 on the year with a 0.93 ERA. In 15 innings of work he has given up eight hits and struck out 26. He’s already signed with BYU.
Hall is a senior who throws in the mid-80’s and has good command of his pitches. Prior to a rough outing against Bingham, he had not given up a run in his first six innings of work.
Tanner Nielsen is a lefty, who had an outstanding summer and fall and could be one of the year’s biggest surprises.
Another pitcher who could emerge as one of the best in the state is Bennett Bradford, who is coming off an arm injury but appears to be 100 percent. He is 2-0 with a 0.78 ERA. If Spanish Fork can get Bradford back to his old form, this team could win 24 games.
If the pitching struggles, the Dons are very capable of winning a slugfest. They are averaging 14 runs per game and have a team batting average of .390.
Through seven games, the Dons had 13 players hitting over .400. Brady Bate has the most power on the team. He’s hitting .500 and already has 12 RBI with four doubles, a triple and a home run. Hall is hitting .500 with five doubles and has an on-base percentage of .667. Trevor Perkins has a .467 batting average with 10 RBI.
When Region 8 play opens this week, Spanish Fork can expect teams like Maple Mountain and Salem Hills to challenge for the region title. Then we may know if this ridiculous start is just a streak or if opposing coaches were correct in predicting that this is the best Spanish Fork team they’ve ever seen.