Wood River High School baseball coach Matt Nelson and softball coach Dale Martin have got their snowbound varsity teams off the mark for 2008, both teams playing their first games of the season Saturday, March 8 on green grass.
The Wolverine baseball team (1-1) surprised the Bishop Kelly Knights by winning the first game of Saturday's twinbill 4-3 behind the pitching of Pat Patterson and Greg Wakefield. Bishop Kelly survived a wild ride for a 9-8 nightcap win.
It was quite an improvement for Wood River compared to its season-opening games won by Bishop Kelly 6-1 and 11-0 last March. Coach Nelson said, "Our pitching was really, really good and our hitters took their pitchers deep in the counts."
At Mountain Home, Wood River ace softball pitcher Samantha Engel and Tiger sophomore fireballer Nikayla Skinner locked up in a rematch of their terrific pitcher's duel won by Mountain Home 1-0 last April 21 on the Hailey diamond.
This time, pitcher Skinner was poison once again for Wood River (0-2). She held the Wolverines scoreless from the mound for the final six frames and cracked the game-winning single to cap a three-run Mountain Home rally in the home seventh. The Tigers won 3-2.
Coach Martin said, "A good pitcher's duel. Engel got a little tired in the sixth and seventh, but I was very pleased with the first game particularly with our defense making one error."
Mountain Home run-ruled Hailey 16-3 in the nightcap.
Baseball team banks on veteran leadership
Wood River players were ready for Bishop Kelly Saturday. Patterson, a senior, yielded only two earned runs in the first four frames of Saturday's 4-3 win, and winning junior-class relief pitcher Wakefield shut down the Knights. "Greg had them out on their front foot," said Nelson.
Trailing 3-1 after five innings, Wood River manufactured three runs by aggressively running the basepaths—bunt/steals with runners aboard. Wakefield's one-out single put the rally in motion and junior Bryan Bray cracked a two-run single up the middle.
Errors doomed Wood River's effort in the back-and-forth nightcap and ruined an otherwise strong pitching job by senior Trent Seamons (6 hits, 5 K).
The Wolverines did rally from a 4-3 deficit with a five-run fifth, mostly taking advantage of free passes but also getting an RBI single by junior Michale Brunker. But the Knights won it in the final frame with an unearned run.
Completing the varsity roster (5 seniors, 5 juniors, 5 sophomores, 1 freshman) are seniors Tyler Israel, Danny Kramer and Chris Coupe; juniors Sean Bunce and Travis Job; sophs Keven Abbott, Shane Friesen, Jimmy Hague, Zak Sjoberg and Tyler Peters; and freshman Jake Freeman.
Nelson's two previous Wood River teams have gone 8-16 in 2006 and 8-15 last year, but the Wolverines (43-2 at Founders Field since 2002 except for a 3-4 hiccup in 2006) are looking for another unbeaten season like last spring's 6-0 mark at home.
Junior varsity players for coach Jonah Torseth are sophomores Tyler Kolp, Michael Whallen and Juan Martinez (manager), and freshmen Collin Dean, Nathan Farrow, Connor Hesselbacher, Zach Israel, Kevin Jensen, Alex Padilla, Walker Royston, John Siegel, Alex Thomas and Jimmy Williams.
Softball team tightens defense
Coach Martin said about his varsity, "We'll be a better defensive team. The girls (5 seniors, 3 juniors, 1 soph, 2 freshmen) are one year older and we're better at every position."
Offensively, Martin said Wood River needs to cut down on strikeouts and get better production from the bottom half of its batting order, but the team still ripped 15 hits at Mountain Home Saturday.
Leading the way were freshman Madison Gove (4 hits twinbill), junior Engel (3 hits), senior Hannah Gove (4 hits) and senior shortstop Dani Stone (2 hits, 2 RBI). Adding hits for Wood River were junior Angela Coleman, senior Tasha Karst and senior Lacie Wheeler-Anderson.
Hannah Gove, the Game Two pitcher Saturday, got banged around by the Tigers (12 hits) after Wood River went ahead in the second inning. Others on varsity are senior catcher K.D. Pruett, junior Ashley Tolman, sophomore catcher Alex Lindbloom and Taylor Gove. Assistant coaches are Dick Coleman and Jolene Stone.
First-year junior varsity coach Sara Hopkins from Coeur d'Alene has 13 players including junior Logan Young and sophomore Callen Thomas. The rest are freshmen—Ali Levy, Jossie Dawson, Jessica Vollmer, Rachel Mitchell, Ashley Aschliman, Shaylee Foley, Katherine Dwyer, Morgan Rust, Rachel Maier, Anne Drier and Ali Town.
Managers and scorekeepers are Amanda Karst and Ashley Santiago.
Wood River (11-15 last season) opens Great Basin Conference West play today, Wednesday at Jerome.