By JAMES CORDES
Led by timely hitting and strong pitching, the Wood River American Legion baseball squad went 3-1 and finished in the upper tier of last weekend's Donnelley's Invitational wood-bat tournament held in Twin Falls.
Bear Lake (11-3 overall) picked up the tournament championship, also with a 3-1 record but holding a tiebreaker advantage. The Twin Falls Cowboys (3-1) placed second.
Wood River (6-4 overall) shared third with Marsh Falls (both 3-1 in the tournament). Other teams in the round-robin meet were Boise Capitals 1-3, Centennial 1-3, Idaho Falls 2-2 and Mountain View 0-4.
After losing Thursday's opener 1-0 to Twin Falls, Wood River bounced back with three straight victories to end a successful weekend.
Triumphs over the Boise Capitals and Idaho Falls, both games 5-4, on Sunday followed Saturday's 4-1 victory against Mountain View.
"We played very well all weekend," Wood River coach Eli Lloyd said. "And, for the most part, we executed well when we had to."
Lanky pitcher Eric Jacobson (1-1) threw a strong game in Thursday's opener against Twin Falls, but a botched pick-off play with Cowboy runners on first and third enabled the winning run to stroll home.
"In hindsight, we should have just let him pitch to the batter and see what he could have done there." Lloyd said.
Wood River's wood bats finally came alive Friday, with a two-run sixth inning that made the score 3-1 over Mountain View. Jacobson knocked in both runs with his second double of the day.
That lead was all Pat Patterson (2-0) needed to clamp down for the pitching win.
"Mountain View had us off-balance at the plate, but Eric's timely-hitting was all we needed," Lloyd said. "And Pat gave us everything we needed to win by working ahead of a lot of the batters."
Sunday, junior Casey Hawkes (1-0) earned both a win and a save in Wood River's back-to-back one-run victories. In fact, one-run games dominated the proceedings at the eight-team tournament. Of 16 games, eight were settled by one run.
Relieving Jimmy Pierson, Hawkes shut down the Boise Capitals in both the seventh and eighth inning, long enough for Derek Abbott to steal the spotlight at the dish.
With bases loaded and
Wood River trailing 4-3, Abbott ripped a two-run double, plating the go-ahead and winning run. Preceding Abbott's hit, Pierson singled and Drew Anderson had a bunt single.
"Derek has been clutch all summer, quietly and consistently doing the things we need from him," Lloyd said.
In Game Two on Sunday, Wood River's fourth of the four-day tournament, the visitors from Hailey didn't need any late-inning heroics.
A three-run second inning gave hard-throwing righthander Kenny Cardona (8 strikeouts in 4-plus innings) all the runs he needed.
Hawkes' sacrifice fly and Trent Seamons' (2 hits) two-run single in the second frame made the score 4-1 over Idaho Falls—the only team to beat Bear Lake, also by a 5-4 score.
Hawkes picked up the save for Cardona, pitching the final two-and-a-third frames. Tyler Israel, Jacobson and Danny Kramer each added two hits to Wood River's attack.
With the second-place finish in the tournament, the Wolverines (6-4) climbed over .500 for the first time this season, all games on the road.
It was an adjustment for all the teams to play with wood bats, which may have accounted for the close games and the low run count.
"When you use wood bats, after being used to aluminum, the players need a couple at-bats to really adjust," Lloyd said.
Play resumed for Wood River yesterday, as the Hailey 15-18 year olds hosted Jerome at Founders Field in Hailey for the first home games of the summer.
Wood River travels to the Marsh Falls American Legion Tournament this weekend in American Falls.
Games are scheduled for Thursday, June 23 vs. Upper Valley at 1 pm, followed by another contest against Highland of Pocatello Thursday at 3 p.m. On Friday, Wood River plays Bear Lake at 1 p.m. and Saturday, a final game against Idaho Falls is set for 9 a.m.
Next Tuesday Wood River entertains the tough Buhl Tribe for a 4 p.m. Founders Field twinbill.