NWCART: Service beats Vernal (UT) 7-0 in tourney opener

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Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Aug 5, 2022

Jake Rafferty threw 5.2 scoreless innings and teamed with two relievers for a combined shutout as Service Post 28 beat host Vernal 7-0 on Day 1 of the Northwest Class A Regional Tournament in Utah.

Rafferty was special, allowing just two hits and getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth with his final strikeout.

He also picked off a base runner and drove in a run with the bat as the Cougars picked up their first regional tournament win since 2016.

Michael Sculley got the final out in the sixth and Rilan Nicali sealed the deal with a clean seventh.

Service banged out an 11-hit attack, highlighted by RBI triples from Owen Hickman and Carson Maltby, and RBI doubles from Sean Giffen and Landon Martindale.

Service moved into the winner’s bracket and will play Butte (MT) on Saturday at 5 p.m. ADT.

The Cougars (23-11) got the party started early, striking for a pair of runs with two outs in the first inning.

Rafferty ripped the first pitch he saw into the hole on the left side and Hickman hammered a triple over the right-fielder’s head for a little oppo taco.

The fast start only motivated Rafferty, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound right-hander who pounded the zone and trusted his defense.

Giffen, the shortstop and team’s elder statesman, had a hand in six of the first eight outs on four assists and two putouts.

Giffen was on the receiving end of Rafferty’s pick off in the second inning and he saved an error by the pitcher in the third inning after stretching to catch an errant throw from Rafferty while using every bit of his 6-foot frame to keep his foot on second base for the force out.

Service struck for a pair of runs in the third on three consecutive hits – a single by Hunter Christian, a triple by Maltby and a double by Giffen.

Maltby’s missile flew over the right-fielder’s head as he pulled it to pull Service ahead 3-0.

In the fourth, Sebastian Fournier was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and scored on Landon Martindale’s double.

By this time in the game, the sun had set and the Cougars were under the lights.

It was showtime for guys like Rafferty and Hickman.

Hickman, a Swiss-army-knife utility player, filled in at catcher for starter Coen Niclai, who didn’t make the trip.

Hickman saved a run in the fifth with a beautiful backhand stab on pitch in the dirt and a runner on third base.

That same inning saw Rafferty wiggle out of the bases-loaded jam with an inning-ended called third strike, thanks to a fastball on the outside of the plate.

Sculley worked around a pair of walks in the sixth and Niclai worked a 1-2-3 frame.

Service’s win was in sharp contrast to how its next opponent advanced, with Butte winning a 15-10 slugfest.

That score was reminiscent to the 11-10 win Service posted over Grantsville (UT) in the 2016 NWCART.