Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Home sweep of Rangers hikes Legion to 12-6

First home twinbill victory

Progress has come in leaps, bounds and twinbill sweeps for the Wood River American Legion baseball team midway through the 2007 summer. The turnaround compared to last season has been dramatic.

Wood River (12-6) has won nine of its last 12 games to reverse its 6-12 record at the same point in 2006. Coach Matt Nelson's improving squad has won four doubleheaders—twice as many as last summer.

The team's offensive output has gone from 5.9 runs per game to 8.2. On defense the runs allowed have dipped from 8.3 to 6.4. Base running, defense and clutch hitting have become positives and not liabilities.

"We're so, so close," said Nelson Thursday after an 8-4 and 6-5 home doubleheader loss at Hailey's Founders Field to perhaps the best team in the 16-team Area C "A" ranks—the sizzling-hot Jerome Tigers (18-4, 16-1 league). All Jerome did last week in a challenging stretch of eight games in four days was go 7-1 and outscore its opponents 80-31.

Saturday at Founders, Wood River captured its first home doubleheader sweep 10-5 and 7-3 over a decent Idaho Falls Rangers squad.

It was a good day, certainly a monster afternoon for sure-handed center fielder and reliable righthanded pitcher Trent Seamons.

Seamons (3-0), owning the corners of the plate, tossed a terrific complete-game five-hitter with 11 strikeouts (6 looking) in the 10-5 win over the Rangers. He needed only 95 pitches to dispatch Idaho Falls. Only one Ranger reached on a walk. Idaho Falls scored only two earned runs.

Wood River (14 hits) scored in five of six at-bats led by third baseman Danny Kramer (3 hits, 3 runs) who belted a long two-run home run in the four-run Wolverine fourth. Those with two hits were Michale Brunker, Drew Anderson (double, 2 runs), Tyler Israel (2 hits, 2 runs) and catcher Kenny Cardona (2 RBI).

Right fielder Sean Bunce made a fine running catch to end an inning and Seamons finished his gem by picking off a Rangers runner at first.

The welcome win snapped a three-game Hailey losing streak.

In Saturday's nightcap, righty Brunker (2 runs, 4 hits, 3 K) handcuffed the Rangers with five scoreless innings of work before running into trouble in the visitor sixth. Idaho Falls tied the game 3-3 before reliever Pat Patterson put out the fire.

Wood River scored three runs for a 3-0 lead in the second on a leadoff triple by Cardona, an RBI double by Seamons (2 hits, 2 runs) and run-scoring singles by Erik Jacobson and Brunker. Then, Rangers pitcher Jake Arehart retired 13 of 14 Wolverines in the middle frames of the game.

In the home sixth, Seamons was the big gun again. His two-out single sparked a two-out, four-run outburst featuring an RBI double by Patterson, run-scoring single by Greg Wakefield, double by Bryan Bray and a two-run single off Brunker's bat.

Patterson (6-1) picked up the win in relief with Seamons making a great catch retreating to the warning track in center field and Patterson himself going a long way to catch a pop up in foul territory for an out.

With a better start in the opener and a better finish in the nightcap, Wood River might very well have swept Thursday's home doubleheader against Jerome. That's what caused Nelson to say, "Oh, so close!"

Patterson, losing for the first time after five straight wins, had a rocky start and yielded six runs on six hits in the first inning against Jerome. It was 8-2 in the second. Thereafter Patterson was great, facing the minimum 12 batters from the third through sixth innings and benefiting from some excellent defensive plays.

Third baseman Kramer turned a couple of tough grounders into easy outs. Shortstop Brunker and second baseman Israel turned a timely twin killing to first sacker Wakefield. And right fielder Kyle Rose made two outstanding catches in the seventh, one going way, way back and another of the shoestring variety, coming in.

As always, center fielder Seamons did his part, making several catches look easy and throwing a Tiger runner out at the plate in the second.

Jerome out-hit Wood River 12-7 in the opener, with Israel contributing a pair of hits and Kramer belting a two-run double. Both Israel and Kramer reached base four times. Winning pitcher was Dee Fleck (6 2/3 innings, 4 runs, 7 hits) with relief help from Tucker Thompson when Wood River loaded the bases and sent up the tying run in the seventh.

In the nightcap, Wood River took advantage of Tiger errors and jumped on Jerome starter Thompson for four runs in the first. Wakefield had the big blow, a two-out, two-run single for an early 4-1 Hailey lead.

Wolverine starter Cardona limited the heavy Jerome lumber to just three runs in five frames. And Wood River led 5-3 with three outs to go.

In the seventh, Jerome shortstop Nathan Bobrowski (2 hits, 2 runs) singled with one out, Thompson and Mike Cummins walked and John Goedhart (3 hits) dribbled a bleeding infield single for a 5-4 game with the bases loaded and two out. Bobrowski then scored the equalizer on a wild pitch. The sacks were loaded again when Thompson tried to steal home and forced a balk by reliever Kramer.

Suddenly behind 6-5, Wood River put runners at first and second on infield hits by Anderson and Israel. But Tiger reliever Travis Cooley bore down and retired Kramer and Cardona to end the close game.

Tournament in Coeur d'Alene

Wood River (7-1 road) has 11 of its final 17 regular-season games away from Founders Field starting with the Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Wood Bat Classic tournament sponsored by the Brett Brothers July 5-7.

Nelson's team, plugged into the 18-team "AA" bracket, is guaranteed five games in Coeur d'Alene meet. The Wolverines play the Prairie Cardinals from Canada Thursday, July 5 at 3 p.m. and have two games each of the next two days—including one game under the lights.

On Friday, Wood River plays Spokane (Wash.) at 3 p.m. and Coeur d'Alene at 8:30 p.m. On Saturday, July 7, Wood River goes against Bethel (Wash.) at 1 p.m. and Kalispell (Mt.) at 3:30 p.m. The Hailey team returns Sunday and gets ready to travel over to Blackfoot for two games on Wednesday, July 11.

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