Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Longhorns, Crunch Time too tough at the Nelson

35th Nelson Little League meet staged in Hailey

Nick Brunker, who had an excellent tournament at the plate, rounds third and heads for home in a Friday game at the Ray Nelson.

They pitched, caught and hit just a little bit better than the other kids, which is why the Pocatello Longhorns romped with four wins to the "Major Division" title of the Ray Nelson Little League baseball tourney Saturday in Hailey.

Pocatello's 11-12 year-olds nipped the Burley All-Stars 6-4 in their first game Friday at Nelson Field, then the Longhorns ripped off three more lopsided victories by a combined 37-10 score including an easy 16-7 win over the Nampa Generals in the title game of the 10-team "Major" meet.

Nearly as dominant in the eight-team 9-10 "Minor Division" was Meridian Crunch Time, a 14-3 winner over a determined team from Salmon in Saturday's championship game at Nelson Field. Meridian went 4-0 and averaged 14.3 runs per game. Salmon averaged 14.8.

The two Wood River All-Star entries in the 35th annual Nelson Invitational didn't have a lot to brag about but they had their moments.

Billy Kramer and Morgan Uhrig coached Wood River's "Major" entry sponsored by Uhrig Fencing, Power Engineers and Pepsi. They played four games and won two.

Friday, Wood River (9 hits) trailed the Heyburn-Paul 'Dawgs 4-1 but the home team erupted for six runs and a 7-4 lead in the third. Singles by Colton Braatz, Kaitana Martinez and Connor Braatz filled the sacks. Nick Brunker belted a two-run triple.

The 'Dawgs battled back into a 7-7 tie but Wood River inched ahead 9-7 on a two-run double by Tom Crosby. Ben Williams doubled and scored in the fifth extending Wood River's lead to 10-7 and that's how it ended in the first game of the day.

Nampa's Generals, the eventual tournament runner-up, scored in five of six at-bats and jumped on top of Wood River 6-0. Hailey rallied for three runs in the fifth on hits by Braxton Parish (2 hits), Tim Boyle, Martinez (3 hits) and Crosby but ultimately fell short 8-4.

To avoid elimination, Wood River needed to start well against the Twin Falls Americans later Friday and that's exactly what happened. Wood River led 4-0 in the first inning and beat the Americans 9-6.

Leadoff hitter Emmet Fortuin (4 hits) opened with a double and scored on an RBI single by Crosby. Connor Braatz (2 hits, 3 runs) followed with an RBI single, then Brunker (3 hits) and Williams brought two more runs home with bouncing balls in the Twin Falls infield. Wood River added two for a 6-3 lead in the third on a double by Connor Braatz and singles by Brunker and Williams.

With Johnny Paris, Connor Braatz and Martinez sharing the mound duties, Wood River tacked on two insurance runs in the fifth on a two-run single by James Landes.

In its next game, however, Wood River (7 hits) fell 12-2 to the fourth-place Rupert Rangers. Brunker and Crosby (double) had two hits apiece and Martinez ripped a triple.

Andy Portillo, Scott Carter and Don Cooper were the coaches of Wood River's entry in the eight-team 9-10 "Minor Division." Team sponsors were Hamilton Jewelers and Rocky Mountain Hardware.

Wood River's 9-10s went 0-3 over two days but earned the Sportsmanship Award.

Their best game was an 8-6 loss to Heyburn-Paul. Heyburn led 8-0 but the Hailey boys rallied big time with six runs in their final two at-bats. Featured in the comeback were hits by Anders Fortuin, Luke Young, Shelby Cooper and Cody Carter. In the consolation championship Saturday, Kyle Weller (2 hits) hit a shot over the fence.

In all, the 18 tournament teams scored a grand total of 581 runs last weekend and had a great time at the ballpark. The tournament is named for Ray Nelson, a baseball booster from Hailey who died in 1970.

Tournament directors for the fifth year were Mike and Buffy Brunker.

"Good weather, superb field conditions, great umpiring and hard-working volunteers were the key to the tournament's success," said Wood River All-Star director Jim Braatz.

Check this week's Express Web site for a complete tournament summary.

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