Righthander Pat Patterson (8-2) didn't waste any time Wednesday afternoon giving the Wood River American Legion baseball team a big victory in its pursuit of a high Area C "A" district tournament seed.
Patterson, a college-bound senior from Hailey, threw an 85-pitch three-hitter with nine strikeouts. He benefited from a 12-hit attack in Wood River's 12-2 five-inning run-rule triumph over the reigning state and regional Legion champs from Bear Lake of Montpelier.
The whole game took one hour and 19 minutes, quickest Wood River contest of the 32 played so far this summer. It was pretty much assured when another college-bound senior, Trent Seamons, drilled a three-run homer that was the centerpiece of Wood River's six-run second for an early 11-2 lead.
Unfortunately, Wood River didn't get the doubleheader home sweep at Hailey's Founders Field that coach Matt Nelson was hoping for. Despite a strong complete-game pitching effort by Shane Friesen, Wood River dropped Wednesday's second game 5-4 to Bear Lake.
But it's been a season of progress for Wood River, which has already exceeded its number of league victories from last year (18-12 in Area C in 2007) and has a good chance to better last summer's 24-20 mark that included a third-place finish in the State Legion tournament.
It's all coming down to the final two weeks, starting Saturday, July 19 when the regular season wraps up with the visit of the Pocatello Razorbacks to Founders Field.
The league doubleheader starts at 1 p.m. The results of those two games will finalize Hailey's seed into the Area C district meet starting Thursday, July 24 in Twin Falls. Wood River is likely to have an afternoon game next Thursday.
First, they'll finish at home.
Wood River (23-9, 20-8 league, 7-1-6 in doubleheaders) improved its Founders Field mark to 9-3 with Wednesday's Bear Lake split. The three home losses have come to three of the league's top teams—possible top seed Upper Valley of St. Anthony 9-3, to Twin Falls 5-4 and to Bear Lake 5-4.
In Wednesday's opener, first-inning singles by Michale Brunker (2 hits, 2 runs) and Seamons set the table for a run-scoring walk by Patterson, a sacrifice fly by Jimmy Hague (2 hits, 2 RBI) and an RBI grounder by Tyler Peters. Wood River led 5-2 after one inning.
Patterson, touched by two runs in the first, struck out the Bear Lake side in the second and had six consecutive whiffs. His teammates provided breathing room with a six-run, seven-hit second inning. Peters added an RBI double and catcher Sean Bunce plated a run with an infield single.
After hitting Bear Lake righty Spencer Smedley hard in the first game, Wood River banged out 11 hits against soft-throwing Eddie Matthews in the nightcap. That made it 23 hits for the doubleheader. But, like the major league All-Stars Tuesday night, Wood River just couldn't deliver baserunners when they were sitting there and waiting. It was frustrating.
Wood River gave righty Friesen (8 hits, 4 BB, 5 Ks) a 4-2 lead after four innings. Bear Lake tied it 4-4 in the fifth.
Then, in the home sixth, Wood River loaded the bases with no outs but couldn't score. In the seventh, Bear Lake's Morris Bunn doubled and scored the eventual winning run on a one-out triple to center field by Nate Crane. Bearing down, Friesen stranded Crane at third to keep the score 5-4.
Wood River threatened in its final at-bat. Hague walked and stole second. Rob Morgus lashed a hard single to left, too hard, as it turned out, because left fielder Spencer Smedley threw Hague out at third base. The previous inning, Smedley had started a relay through third baseman Bunn that had cut down the potential go-ahead Wood River run at home plate.
Morgus stole second to get into scoring position, but Bear Lake center fielder Nate Crane made a fine running catch on Tyler Peters' bid for a gapper to end the game. Bear Lake finished the game with eight hits.
Wood River hitters included Tyler Israel (2 hits), Brunker (3 hits, double), Seamons (double), Hague (double) and Chris Coupe 2 hits (double).