Wood River High School baseball coach Matt Nelson nearly wore a hole in the grass from his pacing along the third base coaching area at Hailey's Founders Field Thursday.
Nelson's concern was understandable. His Wood River Wolverines had fallen into a 7-1 hole in a Great Basin Conference West league game against Burley and were in danger of losing their eighth straight game—and going 0-4 at home.
But nobody in Wood River Baseball Nation lost faith, least of all first-year head coach Nelson and assistant coach Kenny Nelson. And the fired-up Wolverine boys rewarded them.
Wood River rallied for a dramatic 10-9 come-from-behind triumph on Pat Patterson's bloop single driving home Drew Anderson with the game-winning run in the seventh.
Relief pitcher Patterson, who struck out the Burley side on 15 pitches in the visitor seventh of a 9-9 tie, also led the 12-hit Wood River attack with four big hits. He was one of many Wolverine heroes.
"It was incredible," said head coach Nelson about the relentless comeback. "I was wondering when our moment was going to come. We just calmed ourselves down at the plate, took some strikes and got the bats swinging a little."
Trailing 3-0 in the second, Hailey got on the board when left fielder Kenny Cardona (3 BB) drew a one-out walk and catcher Derek Abbott (2 hits) pounded a two-out RBI triple.
Burley (4-11, 0-3 league), seeking its fourth straight win, tacked on runs and led 7-1 in the fourth. But Wood River exploded for five runs and a 7-6 deficit in the home half, the big hits a two-out, two-run triple by Morgan Uhrig (2 hits, 3 RBI) and Patterson's RBI triple.
When Wood River starter Erik Jacobson got in trouble in the fifth, coach Nelson summoned Trent Seamons from the bullpen. Seamons minimized the damage and Burley only scored twice for a 9-6 lead.
In the home fifth, Cardona and Jacobson drew walks, Seamons loaded the sacks with a bloop single and Uhrig delivered one run with a ground ball up the middle for a 9-7 game.
Nelson needed one more inning out of Seamons and the youngster came through, enticing two infield grounders and getting a strikeout. "Trent pitched awesome," Nelson said.
Wood River needed runs.
Patterson, leading off the home sixth, poked a 1-2 offering into the hole between third and short for a single. He stole second and scored when Danny Kramer crunched a 375-foot triple off the base of the center field fence. Cardona followed with an RBI single for a 9-9 tie.
After Patterson did his closing thing with three Ks in the seventh, Wood River closed the deal. With one out, Uhrig walked on a 3-1 pitch. Drew Anderson grounded to third and forced Uhrig at second for the second out. Then, with Anderson running on the pitch, Patterson blooped a single to center and Anderson came all the way around for the winner.
Wood River (4-9, 2-2 league) extended its modest winning streak to two games with a 15-9 victory over Century Friday in Pocatello. Century pitchers walked six batters in the first and spotted the visitors a 6-0 lead, but the Diamondbacks clawed back and actually regained the lead at 9-8.
But Jacobson clouted a three-run "monster" homer in the fifth sparking the Wolverines to the triumph. Winning pitcher in relief was Patterson (4-2). Nelson said, "Erik had a huge game, the homer and also a couple of RBI singles."
Wood River had a tough time against #3-ranked Hillcrest (14-1) Saturday in Idaho Falls. The Knights won the twinbill 10-0 and 12-1 in run-rule shortened games.
The 12-1 nightcap win was a five-inning no-hitter for Knights pitcher Russell Phillips (7 K), who also drove in three runs. "It was a learning experience for our guys," Nelson said. Hillcrest out-hit Wood River 26-2, both hits by Uhrig.
Jerome game a big one
Wood River hosts the streaking Jerome Tigers today, Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at Founders Field in a Great Basin Conference West clash that could determine home field advantage for the first round of the league playoffs May 5.
Coach Nelson said, "Our next two league games, against Jerome and Minico, are really key. Obviously we'll bring out all our weapons against Jerome. By the time we play Minico next week, we will have decided the team we'll be putting out there on the field for the district tournament."
Jerome (8-11, 2-2 league) started its season 1-7 but snapped a five-game losing streak with an 11-7 home win over Wood River April 10. Strong at home, the Tigers bounced back with 11-10 and 14-3 wins over Kimberly, and 11-8 and 12-11 successes over Pocatello, prior to Tuesday's home twinbill with Vallivue.
A win over Wood River today would guarantee the second seed and home field advantage for the playoffs to Jerome, twice a loser to Minico. In contrast the Wolverines will keep their #2 hopes alive with a win.
Wood River plays in the eight-team Preston tournament Friday and Saturday, April 28-29. The Wolverines go against Malad Friday at 12:45 p.m. and Blackfoot at 5 p.m. On Saturday the Hailey batters meet Preston at 10 a.m. to see if they advance into the 3:30 p.m. title game.
"Senior Night" is the Wednesday, May 3 game against league-leading Minico (15-4, 3-0 league). Minico, the reigning conference and State 4A champion, won four games by a combined 39-7 score last week over Preston, Jerome and Pocatello.