POCATELLO — Grays fans mingled at Halliwell Park long after the final out was recorded. Some of them needed more time to finish their hot dog and beer.
They can thank Mason Foltz for that.
Foltz struck out 12 in a complete-game shutout Thursday, when Gate City dispatched the Logan Royals 3-0 in a game that barely spanned 90 minutes. The right-hander out-dueled Logan’s Tyler Hinkle in a battle of arms, as the Grays’ offense slowly came alive and gave Foltz all the run support he needed.
“Mason Foltz,” Grays manager Trent Seamons said when he was asked what he thought of the game. “He’s got good tempo, he pounds the zone, he’s got good stuff. ... We’ve got a lot of faith in a guy like Mason. He knows what he’s doing, he’s an absolute competitor and that’s just a great example to all of us.”
Foltz, who starred at Pocatello’s Highland High and is entering his final season of college baseball at Dixie State University, allowed three of Logan’s five hits in the first two innings Thursday. He found a groove after that, striking out the side in the third.
Then Foltz really got cooking. He used only five pitches to sit Logan down in the fourth, struck out two in the fifth and needed eight pitches to get out of the sixth. A fifth-inning ball snapped a string of 19 strikes in a row.
After the miss, Foltz’s next 13 pitches were strikes. He threw 28 pitches combined in the fourth, fifth and sixth frames — one was a ball.
Foltz was backed by a defense that played error-free until booting one ball in the top of the seventh. That was equally crucial, Seamons said.
“That’s been the struggle for us this year is making plays, but also just having quick inning on the mound,” Seamons said.
While Foltz dealt on the mound, Gate City’s hitters struggled to solve Hinkle.
The recent graduate of Utah’s Bear River High, who’s headed to play baseball at Iowa’s William Penn University, held the Grays to one hit through four innings. The southpaw induced seven fly outs through the first four, as Grays hitters failed to capitalize on rare opportunities with runners on base.
Gate City broke through in the fifth, when Ben Ditton tripled to plate Trent Cooper. Nick Winters followed with a sacrifice fly, and Hayden Foltz added an RBI groundout in the sixth.
Hinkle was only touched for three hits, spicing up the fast-paced pitchers’ duel with Foltz.
“I noticed that our hitters were struggling a little bit with their guy. He was mixing it up well,” Mason Foltz said. “Every time I got a guy on base, I knew I had to really bear down and focus on those guys, because we weren’t scoring any runs at the time.
“But I knew eventually if I just kept putting up zeroes that we’d come through and score some runs.”
The Grays executed a sac bunt, Winters’ sac fly, a stolen base and Hayden Foltz’s get-him-in groundout during their run-scoring innings, to Seamons’ delight.
“With all the talent that we have offensively, I’ve let the guys swing it. I’ve let them play,” Seamons said. “But when it comes down to it, I 100% expect them to execute when I call on them, and we did that tonight.”
The Grays (15-13, 11-8 Northern Utah League) host Hyrum for a doubleheader on Saturday to conclude the regular season. The playoffs start next week, and no team’s seeding is set.
“They’re going to come up here ready to play,” Seamons said. “They’re going to be fired up, we’re going to be fired up. It’s gonna be fun.”
GATE CITY 3, LOGAN 0
Logan 000 000 0 — 0 5 0
Gate City 000 021 x — 3 3 1
Logan — LP: Hinkle. 2B: Hansen.
Gate City — WP: M. Foltz. 3B: Ditton.