Heart, skill and toughness—Wood River Little League All-Star teams showed all of these attributes during last weekend's season opening 11-12 and 9-10 year-old tournaments played on the Rupert diamonds.
Placing fourth of 10 teams with a 3-2 record in the 11-12 tournament was the Wood River East squad coached by Mike Brunker, Pat Cooley and Pat Boyle and sponsored by Idaho Lumber/Uhrig Fencing.
Also placing fourth in the 9-10 tourney with a 3-1 mark after an opening-round loss was Wood River South sponsored by Hailey Nursery/Power Engineers and coached by Tony Benson, Randy Jorgensen and Doug Kulhanek.
Not only that, but coach Don Cooper's Wood River West 11-12 year olds sponsored by Hamilton Jewelers/Pepsi won its final two games and nearly added a third victory en route to a 2-2 tournament record.
The Wood River Baseball All-Star teams will travel to Salmon this coming weekend for their second of six tournaments culminating in the 36th annual Ray Nelson Invitational July 20-21 in Hailey.
Here are summaries of last weekend's Rupert tournament:
Success at Rupert
Little League teams rarely enjoy the kick-start that slugger Kevin Cooley gave the delighted Wood River East fans Friday during the tournament-opening 11-2 game against Northside Blue of Jerome.
In the very first inning of the very first game of the very first Wood River tournament, Cooley stepped up and crushed a two-run homer to left field, putting Wood River East ahead of Jerome for good en route to a 17-3 rout. Cooley added another homer in the same game.
WR East also defeated the Paul Dawgs 10-1 and Mini-Cassia 5-2 before dropping its final game heartbreaker 6-5—despite a sixth-inning two-out inside-the-park homer by Braxton Parish.
Ben Williams, Colton Braatz, Luke Bird, Parker Weekes, Nickolaus Brunker and Tim Boyle helped lead the strong WR East showing. Others on the team were Emmet Fortuin, Eli McNees and John Paris.
Meanwhile, WR West squeezed out a thrilling 4-3 win over the Mini-Cassia Bandits in its first game. Ricky Jeneson pitched well for the West All-Stars and bore down to finish a bases-loaded, two outs, full-count situation that had parents biting nails to the bone.
Anders Fortuin snagged the final, hot smash to force the runner at second base and secure the dramatic victory.
Cooper's West squad also defeated the Paul Dawgs 10-7 with Drew Barsch belting a clutch bases-loaded double to the fence and reliever Connor Hall putting out the fire.
Also putting forth excellent West performances were Gray David and Shelby Cooper.
The younger 9-10 WR South All-Stars had a tough start, falling 9-4 to a formidable Jerome squad. But they turned it around quickly and won their next three games to finish fourth out of eight 9-10 teams.
WR South pounded out two 15-run triumphs but showed the most character in their thrilling clash against Salmon's All-Stars. Trailing 9-1 with two gone in the fourth frame, Hagan Barsch fired up the WR South attack with a very timely triple to right field.
Barsch's drive sparked a 12-hit onslaught that included an inside-the-park homer by Cameron Benson and the go-ahead two-run triple by Cody Carter. After the wild two-out rally, pitcher Cameron Benson came in and shut the door to lock up the 13-12 victory. He stranded the potential tying run at third.
Pitchers Benson, Jason Williams, Carter, Austin Savaria and Reide Whitehead held down the opposition during the three South wins. Playing stellar defense were Gage Jorgensen, Jake Jorgensen, Jimmy Graves and Will Long. And there was great hitting by Brandon Benson, Tristan Kulhanek and Nic Tidwell.
The Wood River Baseball and Softball Association provides 9-12 year-old youth residing in the Wood River Valley the opportunity to participate in learn and enjoy the sport of baseball or softball on a competitive basis.
Contact Holly Carter 720-0336, Buffy Brunker 720-1998 or Scott Carter 720-5948 for more information, or visit woodriverbaseball.com.
And check the July 4 Local Life edition for a team photo of the fourth-place Wood River South team from last weekend's Rupert tournament.