Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wood River packs its swagger for road trip

Nelson?s nine stagger eastern Idaho opponents

Not many teams can boast a swing as good as the Wood River American Legion baseball recently took through eastern Idaho.

The Wolverines, coached by Matt Nelson with assistant David Nelson, put the finishing touches on a 6-0 road trip featuring highlights that will surely stand the test of time throughout the season.

During the stretch in which Wood River recorded wins over Upper Valley, Hillcrest and Idaho Falls, Nelson's nine tripled their previous win total from 3 to 9, winning in ways that showed just how much they have matured on the diamond.

"I think they learned the moments you stop pressing is the moment you start winning," Matt Nelson said. "We playing loose and we're playing like a team. We're making the other teams make the perfect play instead of us. We're putting the pressure on them."

Just how loose the Wolverines are was readily apparent in their nightcap against Upper Valley at St. Anthony Thursday.

Trailing 7-0, Wood River climbed back in with three consecutive 3-run frames, highlighted by a 3-run jack off the scoreboard by Kenny Cardona (3-for-4 with a double) in the sixth for a two-run advantage. In the dimming night, Cardona truly turned out the lights.

Reliever Danny Kramer sent them to bed, sending Upper Valley down in order, finishing them off with a ground ball that was turned for a double play to lock up a 9-7 victory. Greg Wakefield notched the win.

The opener had similar heroics with Wood River winning 9-8 in eight innings.

Down 6-2 after two, Wood River popped for four runs in the third to knot the score. Michael Brunker and Drew Anderson ripped doubles during the rally, and the team knew it was hot when Cardona's dribbler found its way through the infield to score Kramer.

Each team scored once in the seventh to send it to the eighth, but Cardona led off with a triple and scored on a knock by Trent Seamons to go up 9-8 and put the pressure on Valley.

But Kramer was cooking -using nothing but dry heat. He retired the side on two strikeouts and an infield pop fly to lock up the win.

"He's something special when he goes in there. He's got some nasty stuff," Nelson said.

Starter Pat Patterson picked up the win, allowing just six hits and striking out six against "a great hitting team," Nelson said.

Playing Hillcrest on Friday, the Wolverines enjoyed three-run first and second frames to lead 6-0 after two and cruised to an 8-1 victory.

Pitcher Michel Brunker was "lights out," according to Nelson, allowing no earned runs, and had key hits and runs during the rallies.

Timely hitting continued in the nightcap, with Brunker belting his first-ever homerun in a 5-3 Wolverine victory.

"You could see the shine from his smile for miles," Nelson said.

Pitcher Trent Seamons picked up his second win of the season. Alex Moore, Chris Coupe, Michael Drew and Drew Anderson scored key runs.

A snarl in the scheduling bumped back Wood River's contest against Idaho Falls Saturday and with the late start the coaches decided that one nine-inning game would count as two in the standings.

Trailing 7-6, Wood River plated three to take a 9-7 lead and did not look back, winning 15-7. Patterson picked up the win and Cardona the save.

Wood River kicked off a six-game home stand against Kimberly Monday night and came away with its seventh straight win, taking the opener 15-5. Winning pitcher Patterson took care of business on both ends, powering a three-run triple to put the Wolverines on top in the third. Kramer chipped in a pair of triples as well.

Kimberly came out on top 15-12 in a back-and-forth nightcap.

"It was a brawl," Nelson said.

But the young coach was more than pleased with his team's 7-1 mark and he thinks they are playing some pretty fine baseball these days.

"Every game we play we are in it. They are starting to believe in themselves and doing some pretty amazing things," he said.

Jerome comes to town on Thursday, and the Wolverines (10-4) round out the week against the Idaho Falls Rangers on Saturday, June 30. Game times are 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

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