Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Can Legion ambush higher seeds at district?

District baseball opens in Idaho Falls

Express Staff Writer

Wood River American Legion outfielder Alex Padilla bangs out a hit during the July 13 home Area C A doubleheader sweep over the Skyline Red Sox, at Founders Field. Photo by David N. Seelig

Historically, the Area C "A" American Legion baseball tournament can be a minefield for the high seeded teams. You can go in with a bye and get knocked off by a wild-card team that has already played a game.

That's what happened to the Wood River American Legion team last year. But Wood River is in a different place in 2009. They're looking up, not so much down at the competition.

Coach Matt Nelson's Wood River 15-18 year olds are hoping to trigger an upset or two and set off long-ball bombs of their own during the 12-team double elimination meet at Melaleuca Field (McDermott Field) and Hillcrest High, Idaho Falls.

Wood River (21-16, 16-16 league) is going in as the eighth seed after ousting #17-seeded Jerome Cyclones 9-4 in Monday's tournament play-in game at Hailey's Founders Field.

The Hailey boys, boasting four capable seniors in Michale Brunker, Greg Wakefield, Sean Bunce and Bryan Bray, will face off against #9-seeded Twin Falls (23-19, 16-16) today, Wednesday at 12 noon at the minor league home of the Pioneer League Idaho Falls Royals, now known as Melaleuca Field.

Winner of WR-Twin Falls advances to meet #1-seeded Bonneville of Idaho Falls (26-5) today at 6 p.m. at Melaleuca. The loser plays again Thursday at 9 a.m. Games continue through Friday. Last year's champion was Bear Lake, with Buhl second and Upper Valley third. The top three teams advance to the State "A" tournament July 29 in Orofino.

Wood River has prospered against lower-seeded teams this summer—winning nine straight at home by a 138-44 margin against the #12, #13, #14, #15 and #17 seeds. But Wood River has also struggled against the tournament's top seven seeds, going 3-11 in all.

But it's a new season starting today. Wood River will try to make some noise similar to its outstanding success at Founders Field (12-4 record).

Monday, righthander Bunce (2-2) threw a three-hit complete game against Jerome Cyclones (3-29 league). He walked three, whiffed 10 and yielded only one earned run in the 9-4 win. Wood River committed five errors, but the home team managed eight hits at timely junctures during the seven-inning game.

Wood River chipped away and scored in five of six at-bats. Bunce (2 hits, 2 runs) scored the first run on a Michale Brunker sacrifice fly, then the home team made it 2-0 on a second-inning leadoff triple by Wakefield (2 runs) and RBI double by catcher Tyler Peters.

Doubles by Bunce and Brunker made it 3-0 after three. Walks to Wakefield and Jimmy Hague (2 runs) followed by a two-out RBI hit by Alex Padilla (2 hits, 2 runs) stretched the lead to 6-1 after four frames. It became 9-1 in the home sixth on singles by Hague and Padilla, a Keven Abbott sacrifice fly and two-out RBI single by Bunce.

Saturday at Founders, Wood River's 13-hit attack overwhelmed Marsh Falls (9-23 league) by a score of 12-4 in a nine-inning game that counted as two games in league ranks. Limiting Marsh Falls to four hits with 10 Ks and one earned run were pitchers Brunker, Wakefield and Taz Lyons.

Michale Brunker (3 hits, double, triple, 3 runs) led the attack. His younger brother Nicholaus Brunker (2 hits) came off the bench to pound a double late in the game. Leadoff hitter Abbott (2 hits, 3 runs) reached base four times and hit the ball hard, like all 17 Hailey players who got into the game.

Check's next week's Local Life for a team photo by Jack Peters taken after Monday's game.

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