Friday, June 25, 2010

Rally comes from nowhere, lifting Legion at Nampa

In Father’s Day baseball

Express Staff Writer

Wood River’s Nic Brunker pounds a hit into the Founders Field outfield during Tuesday’s 18-1 victory over Upper Valley. Photo by David N. Seelig

Sometimes, a baseball team suffering through a long losing streak just doesn't know when and even "if" things are going to turn around.

The Wood River American Legion Wranglers baseball team staggered through such a stretch during the week of June 14-18—losing eight straight games and getting blown out by a combined 107-34 score.

Coach Matt Nelson's Legion nine traveled to the eight-team Wingers Father's Day Classic tournament last weekend at Nampa's Rodeo Park where things continued to go south for the boys from the north.

Wood River lost to LaGrande (Ore.) 9-2 Thursday, yielding six unearned runs, and dropped a 12-6 game to Canyon County of Caldwell Friday. The Wranglers hit the ball better in the second part of the Canyon County game but still didn't have anything to show for it.

Then, Wood River played Kuna at noon Friday in the second of the two back-to-back Wrangler games.

It was an endless game that took nearly four hours and featured the ignominy of 17 walks issued by Hailey pitchers.

The walks by both pitchers made it almost impossible to swing the bat and get a hit. In fact, each pitcher carried no-hitters into the fourth, although Wood River trailed 8-0 and then 10-3 going into their last licks in the home seventh.

That's when "a perfect storm" of circumstances, in Nelson's words, enabled Wood River to rally with eight runs and beat Kuna 11-10 on a dying quail RBI hit by Alex Padilla.

Keven Abbott (walk) and Padilla (HBP) quietly started the game-winning rally and Jimmy Hague singled to load the bases. Nic Brunker followed with an RBI grounder. Tyler Peters and Braxton Parish added RBI singles.

Taz Lyons, who became the winning pitcher with a 1-2-3 relief job in the seventh, cranked out a two-run double. Zach Israel delivered an RBI double cutting the once-huge lead to 10-9, then Abbott came up again for a game-tying single, making it 10-10.

On a 3-2 count with two outs, southpaw hitter Padilla popped a dying quail blooper to the opposite field and Abbott never stopped running on the basepaths—scoring the winner to end a lengthy losing skid.

"It was something else," said Nelson.

Shane Friesen pitched long relief from the first through the sixth innings for Wood River and issued many of the walks, but the big rally bailed him out in the final summary.

Fired up, Wood River jumped ahead of Eagle 6-1 early Saturday and seemed destined to win behind the pitching of Brunker. But Eagle kept chipping away with unearned runs and prevailed 8-6 with three runs in the seventh inning.

Wood River ended its 2010 Nampa tournament run with a 2-3 record Sunday morning by beating Upper Valley 6-1. Collin Dean (2 hits, 1 BB, 6 K) threw a complete game and the Wranglers played solid defense in the field behind him.

Resurgent Wranglers win three of four

Coming off their Nampa tourney effort, the Wood River Wranglers captured three Area C "A" league victories in four tries early this week.

Wood River (8-15, 6-12 league) squared its Founders Field home record at 5-5 with a Tuesday afternoon doubleheader sweep over the Upper Valley Cats from St. Anthony by scores of 6-1 and 18-1.

On Wednesday, Wood River captured a 12-3 road win over a good Burley Green Sox squad (14-4, 13-3 league) before dropping the nightcap by a 10-0 run-rule score in five innings.

In Tuesday's 6-1 home opener against Upper Valley, righty Taz Lyons (2 hits, 0 BB, 7 K) was on fire with a complete-game victory that featured six ground-ball outs. Hailey's defense (1 error) was solid.

The Wranglers (8 hits) got all the runs Lyons needed with four in the first. Hague opened with a one-out double, Padilla walked, Brunker (2 hits) singled, Lyons delivered an RBI grounder, Alex Thomas socked a two-run double and Israel (2 runs) added a run-scoring single. Jake Freeman added two hits to the Wranglers attack.

Coach Nelson sent efficient righthander Israel out to pitch Tuesday's nightcap—and he was glad he did when torrential rains came just as Israel finished his 54-pitch, five-hitter for the 18-1 run-rule triumph.

Wood River (19 hits) blasted the ball all over the field led by Hague (triple, double, 5 RBI), Abbott (3 hits, 3 runs), Padilla (2 hits, 3 runs), Brunker (2 hits, 3 runs, 2 RBI), Israel (3 singles, 3 RBI), Collin Dean (2 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBI) and Peters (2 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBI). Brandon Beall added a two-run double while Parish (RBI) and Connor Braatz contributed singles.

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