Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wood River nine rallies past Jerome 7-4

Great Basin victory improves Founders Field mark to 5-0

Express Staff Writer

Gotcha! Wood River High School junior pitcher Erik Jacobson (right) tracks down Jerome pitcher Tucker Thompson (left) on the Founders Field basepath between first and second, during the first inning of Monday?s 7-4 Wood River victory. Catcher Pat Patterson picked Thompson off first and made the throw to first sacker Bryan Bray, who relayed it to second baseman Tyler Israel and back to Jacobson for the tag in the early-game pickle. Photo by Willy Cook

Home cooking tastes terrific for the Wood River High School varsity baseball team, which took care of business and won a very big Great Basin Conference West game 7-4 over the #2-ranked Jerome Tigers Monday at Founders Field in Hailey.

The outcome meant Wood River (3-2 league) put itself in position to play for the regular-season league championship and a home field tournament berth in Tuesday afternoon's rematch of the home-and-home series, at Jerome (3-2 league).

"We're going down there hoping to clinch the league," said Wood River coach Matt Nelson, who expected to send junior righty Pat Patterson to the hill Tuesday in an expected match-up with Jerome righthander Travis Cooley.

The Wolverines wouldn't have been in that position at all without winning Monday.

On "Senior Day" for Drew Anderson and Kenny Cardona, the Wolverines (7-9) stretched their win streak to four games with a come-from-behind triumph over a Jerome squad (16-2) that started the 2007 season with a 14-game win streak.

It was no accident that Wood River (10 hits) rallied from a 3-0 deficit on the same Founders Field where they've won all five of their home games this spring, seven in a row over two seasons and 45 of 51 at home in seven campaigns since 2002.

"They believe they can do it," Nelson said.

Junior righty Erik Jacobson (4-1) certainly believed he could do it against Jerome.

Having established himself as staff ace, Jacobson (102 pitches, 8 hits, 4 BB, 5 K) threw a seven-inning complete game and won his third straight league game—as a starter 5-4 over Minico and in relief 10-9 over Burley. He loosened and got better as the two-hour and five-minute game progressed.

Jacobson yielded a two-run single by Jerome shortstop Travis Cooley that gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead in the third.

But Jacobson bore down and gave up only one more run in the next three frames. In the seventh, Jacobson faced Cooley again—as the tying run at the plate with one out—and the 6-5 righty fanned the Jerome stud on a nasty 3-2 inside curve.

"Couldn't have asked for better location on that pitch," Nelson said.

Although Jerome managed eight hits off Jacobson, most were infield singles. The only hard-hit ball was Cooley's two-run single ripped down the left field line in the third stanza.

Meanwhile, Jerome ran out four pitchers including starter Tucker Thompson and losing relief pitcher Logan Parker, a lefty. Wood River, winning for the fifth time in six games, just pecked away with everybody in the batting order chipping in.

Leadoff singles by shortstop Drew Anderson (2 runs) and left fielder Michale Brunker (3-for-3) in the third produced Hailey's first run when Jacobson bounced into a double play.

Wood River also put its leadoff hitter aboard in the fourth and fifth. And things turned out well both times.

In the fourth, catcher Pat Patterson punched a leadoff single to center. He scored cutting the Tiger lead to 3-2 on Tyler Israel's sacrifice fly—after a nice bunt single by center fielder Trent Seamons. Second baseman Israel (5 assists, 1 putout) had a fine glove all game and at one late juncture made three straight outs.

Wood River batted around in the fifth, treating two Tiger pitchers roughly for five runs and a 7-3 lead. A leadoff single by designated hitter Cardona (2 hits) and walks to Danny Kramer and Patterson jammed the bases with nobody out.

First baseman Bryan Bray ripped an RBI single, Seamons drove home a run with a bouncing ball and Israel plated another with a grounder that ate up shortstop Cooley. Brunker finished the frame with an RBI single to left field, his fourth time on base.

Coach Nelson said he was a little surprised that Jerome coach Tom Bobrowski yanked starter Thompson after just three innings and 71 pitches. Leading 3-1, Thompson had just given up his first walk, to Bray, and didn't quite hustle to the ball on the well-placed Seamons bunt in front of the plate. Just like that, he was gone.

Thompson had beaten last year's Great Basin West king Minico 1-0 at Jerome April 17, before the host Spartans turned around and handed Jerome and pitcher Cooley its first loss 5-3 last Wednesday, in Rupert.

Burley (5-12, 1-3 league) and Minico (14-6, 2-2) squared off Tuesday and again today, Wednesday to finalize seedings for the four-team league tourney starting Thursday, May 3.

If Minico sweeps Burley, as expected, the Spartans will end up with a 4-2 record and gain a tournament home seed along with the winner of Tuesday's Wood River-Jerome game.

Preston tournament opens Friday

With his team oozing confidence, Wood River coach Nelson fully expected to pull another upset and capture Tuesday's contest at Jerome.

Nelson was also anxious to further tune up his team for the conference tournament during this weekend's fourth annual Tony Hansen Memorial tournament at Preston.

"They put us in the toughest bracket at Preston. That's all right—we can't face any tougher competition anywhere going into our league tournament. Who knows, maybe we'll face Jerome again?" he said.

Wood River's "Pool B" features three state tournament teams from 2006—5A Highland Rams of Pocatello, the always-tough Buhl Tribe (11-6) and reigning State 3A champion Bear Lake of Montpelier, winner of 12 of its first 13 games this spring.

Nelson plans to start Cardona against Highland Friday, April 27 at 12:45 p.m. and will send Jacobson to the mound against Buhl Friday at 5:15 p.m. Wood River's last preliminary is against Bear Lake Saturday at 12:45 p.m., Patterson tossing.

Championship and consolation games are Saturday at 3:30 p.m. In the other pool are Preston, Jerome, Rigby and Sugar-Salem of Sugar City. Only Preston made state last year, and they're rebuilding in 2007.

Coach Craig Culver's Bear Lake squad, last year's state champ over Fruitland, also won last year's Tony Hansen tourney at Preston with 5-1, 10-7, 10-7 and 6-5 wins over Filer, Rigby, Preston and Highland.

This year, Bear Lake captured the 12th annual Buhl Midseason Classic April 6-7 with 9-3, 14-6, 11-9 and 8-7 wins over Rigby, Mountain Home, Buhl and South Fremont.

Wood River went 2-2 at last year's Preston tournament, beating Century of Pocatello and Highland 14-2 and 7-3, and losing to Malad and Preston 10-9 and 17-3.

But the Wolverines were 4-10 going into last year's Preston tourney. This year they're a couple games better at 7-9, having allowed only 12 runs in the past four winning games while scoring 42. "We're starting to find our bats," Nelson said.

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