Coach Matt Nelson's Wood River American Legion baseball team is finding out on its travels that the Area C "A" league has a bunch of pretty decent ball teams this summer.
It means pitching and clutch hitting should carry the day in July's district tourney play.
But Wood River, relying on a blend of experience and youth, also has a pretty decent ball club of 15- to 18-year-old players coming back from last summer's team that earned the Area C tournament second seed with a 22-8 league mark.
The Hailey boys have gotten past a tough 12-game mid-season road stretch in which they won eight games and dropped a pair of tight one-run away games. So, they could have gone 10-2 on the road.
That's not too shabby, especially with six home games at Founders Field remaining of the 12 games left on the 2009 summer schedule before the 12-team Area C "A" tournament opens July 22 in Idaho Falls.
Saturday, Wood River (14-8, 9-8 league) capped a busy stretch of seven games in five days—five of them away from home—with a 12-2 and 15-4 home doubleheader sweep over Pocatello Rebels at Founders.
In the opener, righty Greg Wakefield (2-3) tossed an 80-pitch five-hitter and drove home three runs with a two-run double and sacrifice fly. Shortstop and leadoff hitter Michale Brunker (2 hits, 4 RBI) had a fine day on defense and sparked the eight-hit attack.
Wood River ended up winning 12-2 on Brunker's walk-off two-run double in the fifth that invoked the 10-run mercy rule. Seven of the 12 Hailey runs were unearned as the young Rebels squad committed six errors. First baseman Bryan Bray (3 runs) and left fielder Alex Padilla (4 walks) contributed at the plate.
In Saturday's nightcap, righthander Shane Friesen (5-0) stayed hot on the mound in long relief and Wood River (11 hits) 15-4, again in five frames. The home team sent up 14 batters in a nine-run second highlighted by tow-run singles by Sean Bunce and Keven Abbott.
Wood River also benefited from nine walks in the second game, which made it 19 walks issued by the young Rebels over 10 innings. Tyler Peters (2 hits, 3 runs) helped out.
Nelson's squad continued its forays into eastern Idaho this week.
Tuesday, Wood River (2-2-4 in doubleheaders) traveled to St. Anthony and clashed with a traditionally-strong Upper Valley squad with most of its players coming from South Fremont High School. Upper Valley swept the Jerome Cyclones 14-1 and 19-5 last Friday in Wendell before losing 2-1 and 11-5 at Buhl Saturday.
Wood River visits Blackfoot Thursday, July 2. Blackfoot, the program that ended Wood River's season last July with a 12-0 tournament victory in Twin Falls, won the Donnelley Sports Wood Bat tournament title Sunday in Twin Falls by a 11-1 score over Marsh Falls.
Next home games are Monday, July 6 at 3 p.m. against Shelley at Founders.
Road games last week
Wood River went 2-3 in five games in eastern Idaho last week starting with a 10-9 and 11-7 doubleheader loss to reigning Area C "A" tournament champion Bear Lake at Montpelier last Tuesday.
Against Bear Lake, righty Brunker (3-1) gave coach Nelson 102 pitches. And Wood River, trailing 6-1 in the first, almost pulled off a big rally before falling 10-9. The visitors (11 hits) rallied with eight runs in the final four frames sparked by Brunker (4 hits, 2 runs), Jimmy Hague (2 doubles, 4 RBI), Padilla (2 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBI) and Bray (RBI single).
The tables were turned in the second game.
Wood River sent up 10 batters in a five-run second for a 7-0 lead led by Bunce's RBI double and Hague's two-run single. But Bear Lake pitchers held Wood River scoreless with only two hits for the final five stanzas while putting up 11 runs. Hague and Padilla added two more hits apiece and Bray had a two-run double in the first.
Wednesday, Wood River split a doubleheader at the Pocatello Razorbacks, winning the first game 13-10 and dropping the nightcap 5-4 when Pocatello scored the game-winning four runs with one out in the seventh. Friesen (107 pitches) tossed six innings for the victory in the opener.
It was too bad Wood River couldn't complete the sweep at Pocatello because its 18-hit attack in the first game was a season highlight. The visitors blew it open with a seven-run fifth for an 8-2 lead. Abbott (2 hits) got it going with a leadoff double. Brunker (2 hits, 2 runs) and Friesen (3 hits, 2 runs) delivered two-run singles.
Peters (4-for-5, 2 runs, 4 RBI), Padilla (2 hits) and Bray (3 runs) contributed to the win.
On Friday at Tautphaus Park, the pitching of Hague (2-0) led Wood River to a 9-8 win over the host Idaho Falls Rangers. Once again, a big inning sent Wood River on its way—in this case a seven-run fourth for an 8-2 lead with clutch hits by Hague, Abbott and Peters. Friesen threw two innings of relief to close it out.
A downpour of rain caused Friday's second game to be suspended, to be replayed only if it matters in the season-ending league standings.