Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Zeroes on the board in dandy 1-0 duel

Tigers slip past WRHS 1-0 in final frame

Express Staff Writer

Playing a 1-0 game is pretty rare on the softball field.

Wood River High School softball teams have played 313 varsity games since the Wolverines debuted fast-pitch softball in 1996.

Only two have been 1-0 pitcher's duels—and you have to go back five years and 131 games to find another 1-0 game played by Wood River.

The latest 1-0 classic was played Saturday between Wood River and a very good Mountain Home squad at South Valley Sports Complex softball field, Hailey. There were goose eggs on the scoreboard for the first six innings before the game was settled.

Mountain Home (12-4) prevailed 1-0 by pushing across a run in the visitor seventh. The Tigers capitalized on their only hard-hit ball of the game. Meanwhile, Wood River (8-10) hit the ball harder than the Tigers but right at the fielders.

Tiger freshman pitcher Nickayla Skinner and Wood River sophomore righty Samantha Engel were the pitching stars in the circle.

And what an effort each made during the quickly played, 85-minute gem!

Skinner (11-2) was just a little better as she scattered three hits and faced just two batters over the minimum 21. The precocious righty with an eye for the zone threw only 70 pitches, an average of 10 per inning, whiffed eight and walked none.

Wood River never got a runner to second base, despite singles by Engel (leadoff in the second), Hannah Gove (with one out in the fifth) and Angela Coleman (two outs, sixth).

In contrast, Engel (4-5) was constantly in dire straits. Although Engel (10 K) allowed only four hits—just one well struck—she issued eight free passes and stranded six Tigers in scoring position. Mountain Home (11 LOB) left the bases loaded in the sixth and seventh, and runners at third in the third and fifth.

Engel threw 128 pitches.

And the only one that counted in the final accounting was to her counterpart, Skinner of Mountain Home.

It happened in the seventh.

A one-out scratch single by Ashley Christiansen and a sacrifice bunt put the go-ahead run at second with Wolverine killer Sammy Dodge, the Tiger catcher, coming up to bat. Dodge's sawed-off single leading off the sixth had been the first Tiger hit.

A little history: Tiger clean-up hitter Dodge had beaten Wood River 7-5 with a three-run walk-off homer March 10 in Mountain Home. So Wolverine coach Dale Martin did the sensible thing. He had an open base so he ordered Dodge walked intentionally for the second time.

First and second, one out.

Up came Skinner. She took a wicked cut at Engel's first offering and fouled it off. After swinging, she grabbed her left, non-pitching shoulder in quite a bit of pain. Play was delayed until she got it together. Skinner stepped back into the box.

The next pitch she ripped into left field. Christiansen rounded third base and headed home as Wood River put together its relay throws. But there was just the tiniest hesitation in one of the relays and Christiansen's slide beat the tag of catcher KD Pruett.

Engel hit the next Tiger batter, jamming the sacks, but escaped the threat with her 10th strikeout. Wood River sent its 3-4-5 batters up in the home half but Skinner was masterful—getting the final out by taking a rocketed Gove line drive off her shin and throwing Gove out at first.

Coach Martin said about the game's decisive play, "We flinched and they took advantage. Mountain Home is a real good softball team. We fielded well and hit well but right at them. A couple of those balls go into the gaps and we win."

The non-conference game was a good testing ground.

Mountain Home was headed to Boise Tuesday for a rematch with the once-beaten Bishop Kelly Knights, a 5-1 winner over the Tigers March 26 in Mountain Home. Wood River headed to Burley Tuesday afternoon for the first of its two Great Basin Conference West contests against the Bobcats.

Wolverines home for final four

Wood River's final four games of the 2007 regular season are scheduled at home on the South Valley Sports Complex softball field.

Two are important Great Basin Conference West games and two are make-up non-conference contests.

The defending Great Basin West champs from Wood River will host the Jerome Tigers (7-11, 2-1 league) Thursday, April 26 in a critical match-up. Jerome handed Wood River its only league loss 7-6 on March 14 at Forsyth Park in Jerome.

Jerome, losers of six of its last seven games, will come to Hailey after being drilled 13-0 and 14-0 at home by the top-ranked Bishop Kelly Knights (18-1) Saturday.

Wood River has a make-up game with the Filer Wildcats set for Friday, April 27 at 4:30 p.m. on the Hailey field and another make-up with Glenns Ferry's Pilots scheduled for Monday, April 30 at 4:30 p.m.

After playing at Burley (6-10, 1-1) Tuesday, Wood River will entertain Burley Thursday, May 3 to wrap up the Great Basin regular season. The Minico Spartans (4-14, 1-3) are the other squad in the four-team tourney starting Monday, May 8. Seedings will be determined in the next week.

WOLVERINE NOTES: The only other 1-0 game in Wood River annals was thrown by Samantha Engel's older sister Amanda Engel back in May 2002 against the defending Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference champion Kimberly Bulldogs.

Wood River, outscoring its opponents 285-112 prior to state, was in the midst of a terrific 20-8 state tournament season. The Wolverines batted .370 as a team and won 17 of their 18 SCIC games. The only game they lost was to Kimberly 1-0 at home, at South Valley Sports Complex. Bulldog junior Kayla Lundy (73 pitches) tossed a six-hitter and out-dueled Engel (71 pitches), who was better with a three-hitter. It snapped a seven-game Hailey win streak.

Joni Chatterton and Ashley Washburn, two of the top three hitters on that Wood River team, are now coaches for Martin's 2007 team.

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