The top three teams in Idaho 4A baseball are pretty clear-cut this spring. There is Bishop Kelly of Boise, Hillcrest of Idaho Falls, defending champion Minico of Rupert—then there's everybody else.
Everybody else includes Hailey's Wood River High School, a talented club of veterans and fresh faces still finding itself under first-year coach Matt Nelson.
Wood River (7-12, 3-3 league) was truly the underdog in Wednesday's "Senior Night" game against Minico (18-6, 5-1 league)—a team that trounced a very capable Wolverine squad 11-3, 8-3 and 9-4 in three meetings last spring en route to the 2005 State 4A baseball championship in Boise.
Minico was bulletproof in seven post-season games last spring, outscoring its seven tournament foes 59-14. And the Spartans are tough in 2006.
It was a meaningless game in the grand scheme of things, with all the seedings already set in stone for the Great Basin Conference West tournament starting today, Friday. But to their credit, the Wolverines scrapped, clawed, bunted, ran the bases and played like Wednesday's game meant a lot.
The go-for-broke attitude paid off. Wood River got a 135-pitch, complete-game win from its ace, sophomore Pat Patterson (5-4) and put the Spartans in their place 8-6. It was Minico's first conference loss. The Spartans had been 13-1 in the league over two years.
Senior Huston Brashears got Wood River going with a two-run triple in the first. The home team added two in the second for a 4-1 lead. An infield single by senior Casey Hawkes, line drive single by Morgan Uhrig (3 hits), RBI single by Drew Anderson (2 hits) and RBI walk by Kenny Cardona plated runs in the two-run second.
Minico tied it 4-4 with a three-run fourth but Wood River answered right back for a 6-4 lead. Uhrig's bloop single and a perfect hit-and-run RBI single by Tyler Israel made it 5-4. Cardona delivered an RBI grounder for the 6-4 score.
The Spartans put together a two-out, two-run rally for a 6-6 game in the visitor fifth. Again, Wood River answered—this time with small ball. A Derek Abbott walk, an infield error and double steal got pinch runner Michale Brunker home. Uhrig's bunt single put runners at the corners and pinch runner Trent Seamons came home when Uhrig stole second.
Then Patterson put Minico away on the mound.
Third-seeded Wood River opens the Great Basin tourney today, Friday at 4:30 p.m. at #2-seeded Jerome (11-12, 3-3). Jerome saw its seven-game win streak stopped by #4-seeded Burley (5-15, 1-5) by a score of 13-10 Tuesday, at Burley.
Wood River is 0-2 against Jerome this spring, falling 10-7 and 5-4, so the Wolverines feel their time is now. Meanwhile, #1 Minico hosts Burley today in Rupert. The winners and losers play Saturday at 11 a.m. on the field of the highest-seeded team from Friday.
In other words, if Wood River loses to Jerome today and Burley loses to Minico, Burley will visit Founders Field Saturday. If Wood River wins, it will probably go to Minico Saturday at 11 a.m.
A loser-out game will be played Monday, May 8 at 4:30 p.m. on the field of the higher seed, then the championship game is Tuesday, May 9 at 4:30 p.m. at the highest seed.