With most of the 2005 prep baseball season in the books, the pitching-rich Wood River High School baseball team has established itself as a strong contender in the Idaho 4A ranks. And the Wolverines hope to ride that momentum into the upcoming playoffs.
Defense and pitching usually get you there, and senior-laden Wood River had plenty of slick gloves and strong arms Saturday during a 4-3 non-conference home win over the defending State 4A champion Hillcrest Knights from Idaho Falls at Founders Field.
Behind the combined five-hit pitching of seniors Ted Dankanyin and Tyler Thiede, Wood River (14-4) stretched its current win streak to four games and its Founders Field mark to 6-0 (33-2 over four years). They've outscored foes 51-12 in the six home games.
They didn't do the job with big bats Saturday. Wood River (7 hits) scratched out its runs against Hillcrest and played nearly flawless defense led by senior shortstop Brady Femling (6 assists, 3 putouts).
Behind 2-1 in the third, Hailey got help from the Knights. Right fielder Steve Hansen (2 runs) drew a two-out walk and looked like he was going to get picked off first. Hansen broke for second and Hillcrest made a bad throw into the outfield. Hansen raced home for a 2-2 tie.
In the fifth, Hansen was in the center of things again.
He ripped a two-out double down the left field line and scored on Tyson Reynoso's RBI single. In the sixth, Hailey added an insurance run. Thiede's hit-and-run single moved Ben Molyneux to third, where he scored on Jonathan Dittmer's perfect squeeze bunt.
Asked to do a three-inning closer job after Dankanyin (4 hits, 1 BB) tamed the Knights on just two runs in the first four frames, Thiede (1 hit) held Hillcrest scoreless in the fifth and sixth as Wood River quietly built its 4-2 lead.
But the lanky righty ran into trouble by issuing free passes to the first two Knight batters in the seventh. One run scored for a 4-3 game and the Knights installed runners at first and second with two outs. Then Thiede (2-1) enticed a fly ball on a 3-2 count to win his first game since mid-March.
Wood River coach Lars Hovey, blessed with a stable of strong arms, liked his strong defensive line-up with starter Dankanyin on the hill.
"Throwing Ted helps us defensively, because we can have Tyler (Thiede) and Tyson (Reynoso) on the corners in the infield and Steve (Hansen) in the outfield," he said.
He added, "It gives us a pretty legitimate lineup going into district."
Dankanyin, always around the plate, got the ball down after yielding two runs in the second and Thiede threw well in relief, Hovey said. "Tyler is a legitimate starter, but if he comes in and closes and gives us two or three strong innings, it's good for us," said Hovey.
Dittmer's squeeze bunt with no outs and runners at the corners in the sixth was well executed, Hovey said. "Jonathan has been struggling a little so it was a good play to help him at the plate—and to get the runner to second. And these are the things we're trying to work on going into the district tournament," the coach said.
Hillcrest, a team with only one senior and a wealth of underclassmen, was a strong opponent, Hovey added. "They lost the core of their state championship team but they're well disciplined," said Hovey about the Knights.
Thursday, senior ace Hansen (4-2, 21-5 career) tossed a five-inning, 55-pitch masterpiece and took care of the Burley Bobcats 11-1 at Hailey's Founders Field in a preview of a possible first-round Great Basin Conference West tournament match-up next week.
Hansen (8 K, no walks) tossed a four-hitter helping Wood River improve to 3-1 in league play. Outfielder Molyneux (2 hits, 4 RBI) sparked the eight-hit Wolverine attack with a three-run triple. Reynoso (2 hits, 2 RBI) also chipped in at the plate.
Homestretch is here
Wood River, still hopeful of sharing the regular-season league championship with Minico, hits the homestretch of the 2005 baseball season with six games in the next six days—ending with Monday's "Senior Night" game against Minico at Founders Field.
The Wolverines host Jerome (7-8, 0-4 league) today, Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at Founders in a match-up of state champion teams from two years ago. The Hailey boys then head to Preston for the second annual Troy Hansen Memorial eight-team tournament Friday and Saturday, April 29-30.
Wood River is grouped in a pool with Bear Lake of Montpelier, Century of Pocatello and Filer. The other pool features Highland of Pocatello, Jerome, Malad and Preston. The Wolverines will likely play four games in two days.
On Friday, Wood River takes on Century at 12:45 p.m. and Filer at 5:15 p.m. On Saturday the Wolverines go against Bear Lake at 10:30 a.m. The championship game matching the pool winners is at 3:30 p.m., as is the consolation game with the second-place winners in each pool.
Among honors to be bestowed are an All-Tournament Team and Most Valuable Players in each game.
Wood River, ranked third in the Idahosports.com 4A baseball poll, will try to save a pitcher for its grudge match against #2-ranked Minico Monday at 4 p.m. at Founders. The top-ranked team is Madison (13-4), with Bishop Kelly (11-6) fourth and Hillcrest (11-8) sixth in the poll.
Hillcrest beat Madison 5-3 in last year's State 4A finale.
Minico (14-6, 4-0 league) is having a great season outscoring opponents 198-96 including four league wins by a cumulative 55-12 score. The visiting Spartans blanked Twin Falls 12-0 Friday behind senior Cody Warburton's two-hitter. Minico handled Wood River 11-3 at Rupert April 12.
If Minico beats Wood River Monday, the Wolverines will take the second seed and host either Jerome or Burley in the first round of the Great Basin West district tourney May 5. The tournament winner automatically qualifies for state, while the runner-up must win two playoff games to play in Nampa May 19-21.
WOLVERINE NOTES—Wood River is 33-2 at home since 2002 (13-0 in 2002, 6-1 in 2003, 8-1 in 2004 and 6-0 this year). The only losses were 25-22 to Jerome April 10, 2003 and 8-4 to Filer in the SCIC tournament May 8, 2004....Ace pitcher Steve Hansen (21-5 career) has equaled Matt Zachary (21-5) on the all-time Wood River pitching wins list. The leader is Ryne Reynoso (23-5).