Notorious slow starters because they're almost always snowbound, the Wood River High School baseball team has had tough time in Great Basin 4A Conference West regular-season play over four years.
But seniors Greg Wakefield and Michale Brunker got a monkey off Wood River's back Thursday—combining on the mound for a four-hitter in Hailey's 5-2 conference triumph at Burley. Wakefield (2-5) threw five innings, yielding two runs as the starter. Brunker tossed two scoreless frames in relief.
The big hitters on the day were Keven Abbott (3 hits, 2 doubles, 2 RBI) and Sean Bunce (2 hits). Coach Nelson was pleased that his batters made good contact and played solid defense for the most part.
It was Wood River's first GBW regular-season league victory in 12 games dating back to 2007, and first league road win in season play since beating Burley 3-2 April 4, 2006.
Nelson said, "Greg pitched well—good fundamentals. We got down 1-0 early and chipped away inning by inning."
After the win, Wood River kept driving to Preston for the sixth annual Tony Hansen tournament featuring eight teams Friday and Saturday.
Wood River played three games—losing 8-7 to American Falls, beating Jerome 13-4 and falling to 5A Highland of Pocatello 16-2 in five frames. Highland, also an 8-7 and 14-2 winner over American Falls and Jerome, won the tournament Saturday 8-6 over Rigby.
Senior Bunce (2-2) tossed a 76-pitch complete game, getting plenty of ground outs in the 13-4 tourney win over Jerome. He allowed six hits, whiffed four and walked just one. Out of Hailey's 14 hits, eight went for extra bases. Leading the way were Brunker (3 hits, triple, double), Abbott (2 hits), Wakefield (2 doubles), Shane Friesen (2 doubles) and Bunce (2 hits).
"We hit a lot of fast balls into the gaps. Every win we've had this season is because of pitching, and that's what happened against Jerome," Nelson said.
Next up is the state-qualifying Great Basin West 4A tournament starting Saturday, May 2 at two sites. The #4-seeded Wolverines (8-13, 1-5 league) will travel to four-time defending league champion Minico of Rupert (15-11, 4-1 league) for an 11 a.m. game.
At the same time #2-seeded Jerome (10-7, 4-2) will entertain #3 Burley (7-16, 2-3 league). The winners (7 p.m.) and losers (5 p.m.) will play again Monday, May 4 on the Minico field in Rupert. The second-place game is set for Tuesday at 5 p.m.