It was breezy and very cold, but Buhl's bats were blazing hot against Wood River's best two pitchers Tuesday in the season-opening prep softball games on Hailey's South Valley Sports Complex diamond.
The senior-dominated Indians (15-1), aiming to make it back to the State 3A softball tournament, whipped 4A Wood River 14-3 in six innings and 7-2 in seven frames in the only meeting of the season between the traditional diamond rivals.
Buhl out hit Wood River 23-12 and committed four errors, compared to nine for the younger Wolverines. The outcome was similar to last spring, when the Indians (16-7) swept visiting Hailey 13-5 and 8-2.
It was a good test for the Wolverines, who didn't have the quickness afield or hitting depth to keep pace with Shelly Hart's Tribe that is riding a 15-game winning streak dating back to a season-opening 3-0 home loss to Jerome March 13.
Buhl swung well, picked up just about everything on defense and got a couple of solid, economical pitching performances from senior Miranda Juker in the opener and junior Leslie Hunter in the nightcap.
Coach Dale Martin's reigning Great Basin Conference West champion Wolverines struggled in every area in their home debut. The main bright spot was shortstop Dani Stone (5-for-5 for the twinbill, 2 runs).
Buhl's seven-run third inning—five runs unearned—gave the Indians a 9-0 lead in the opener against Wood River sophomore ace Samantha Engel. There were no weak spots in the Tribe order. The 7-8-9 batters (7-for-11) boasted seven runs scored and eight RBI.
First baseman Jamie Van Patten belted a three-run homer in the sixth. Right fielder Hunter (3 hits), granddaughter of Carey's Dude and Mary Green, hit a fence-clearing two-run tater in the fourth. Juker (90 pitches, 7 hits) allowed only one earned run.
Unaccustomed to such a barrage was Engel (128 pitches, 14 runs, 8 earned, 13 hits, 7 K), who saw her record dip to 4-3. Engel, Hannah Gove and Stone, the 4-5-6 Hailey batters, each had two hits in the opener. Juker and her infield defense led by freshman second baseman Mercedes Pearson did the rest.
The second game started out better for Wood River as junior pitcher Gove (2-5) gloved five ground balls up the middle in the first three innings and held the Tribe scoreless. Meanwhile, Wood River scored two runs.
Leadoff hitter Angela Coleman tripled and scored on Engel's two-out ripped liner to left in the first. Stone led off with a single in the second and scored Hailey's final run.
Buhl's other pitcher, Hunter (76 pitches, 2 earned runs, 5 hits, 0 BB), settled down and kept the Hailey girls off the board in the final five frames.
Gove (132 pitches, 4 earned runs, 10 hits, 4 BB, 4 K) threw a ton of pitches in the middle innings as Buhl tied it up 2-2 and then blew it open with a five-run sixth. Hunter's leadoff triple sparked the big inning.
The Tribe will now host the defending SCIC champion and 2006 State 3A third-place Kimberly Bulldogs (10-2) next Tuesday. Buhl won twice at Kimberly 6-1 and 12-7 March 28.
Wood River (6-8, 1-1 league) resumes action today with a 4 p.m. Great Basin Conference twinbill against a good Pocatello squad (9-1) at South Valley Sports Complex.
Minico (2-11, 1-1) arrives in Hailey for a Great Basin Conference West single game Tuesday, April 17, at 4:30 p.m. Wood River defeated Minico 6-2 in Rupert April 4. The Spartans, despite a recent 6-1 league win over Burley, have been porous on defense all spring. They've been outscored 147-36.