It was an interesting and very competitive day of baseball for the Wood River Wranglers American Legion team Tuesday at Founders Field.
Coach Matt Nelson's Wranglers are gaining momentum as the 40-game summer season wears away. They've won seven of their last 12 games after a staggering 4-14 start. Young pitchers are gaining confidence with every start.
Visiting Tuesday were the first-year Twin Falls Canyon Ridge Hawks. The Hawks gave Wood River all the Wranglers could handle, especially in the second game that ended in a 7-7 tie, darkness suspending it.
Righthanders Tazmin Lyons and Collin Dean really stepped up for Wood River with a pair of solid complete-game performances. For the Hawks, rangy 6-5 righthander Kassidy Gaines carried the load, throwing 11 of the 15 innings and piling up a total of 181 pitches.
Nelson said he appreciated the competitiveness of both teams and enjoyed the second game when the Wranglers and Hawks laid it all on the line.
In the opener, Lyons (80 pitches, 6 hits, 2 earned runs, 2 BB, 4 K) kept the ball low and threw first-pitch strikes. He settled down after a shaky start in the first three frames when Twin Falls built a 4-1 lead. And Lyons survived despite seven Wrangler errors in the field.
Lyons only went to a full count once, in the first inning.
Wood River couldn't do much against hard-throwing starter Gaines, who threw 58 pitches and allowed just two hits and one run in the first three frames. But the Hawks took Gaines out of the game starting the fourth—and Wood River went to work against three relievers, scoring 14 runs.
Glad to have Gaines gone, the Wranglers pounced with nine runs on just four hits and five free passes in the fourth. Wood River sent up 13 batters, with catcher Nic Brunker pounding a two-run double to finish the rally and make the score 10-4.
A leadoff single by Collin Dean (2 hits) helped put two more runs on the board in the fifth. Outfielder Alex Padilla (2 runs, 2 RBI) drilled an RBI double and left fielder Jimmy Hague (2 hits, 2 RBI) followed with a run-scoring single. In the sixth, Zach Israel drove home Alex Thomas with a long single to end it on the run rule.
Wood River, out-hitting Twin Falls 12-6, got hits from every starting player. Lyons added two hits himself from the six-hole. Leadoff Keven Abbott and first baseman Connor Braatz each scored two runs.
Twin Falls brought Gaines back to pitch the second game of the doubleheader and left him in through eight more innings and 123 more pitches. But Wood River's Dean threw just as effectively, matching Gaines pitch-for-pitch in what Nelson called "the gutsiest effort," of the summer by a Hailey hurler.
Dean (7 hits, 1 HBP, 5 BB, 8 K) allowed only two earned runs over his nine-inning stint.
The Hawks led 3-0 in the first but the Wranglers pushed across three in the home third for a 4-3 lead. Twin Falls equalized with a single run in the seventh for a 5-5 game. Padilla's infield bunt single gave the Wranglers a chance to win when he reached third in the home seventh. It didn't happen.
In the ninth, Gaines ripped a run-scoring single for the Hawks and Trae Bishop made it 7-5 Twin Falls with a successful squeeze bunt. When the Wranglers came up, darkness encroaching, the Hawks finally removed Gaines from the mound in favor of Scott Speer.
Righty Speer threw the ball just about as hard as Gaines, but he tossed his third pitch smack dab into the back of Brandon Beall, who trotted to first. Beall stole second base and went to third on an error.
Then, Abbott (3 runs, double) had an excellent at-bat and drew a walk on a 3-2 count. With one out, Hague (2 hits) gave Wood River one more reason to cheer when he scorched an opposite-field, two-run double down the right field line. That tied the game 7-7—but Speer kept Hague from scoring.
Facing the prospect of playing one more inning in fading light, the coaches and umpires agreed to suspend the game. It will be finished only if necessary to wrap up the league standings before the tourney.
Padilla (4 hits) led the 10-hit Hailey attack in the nightcap.
The Wranglers (11-19, 9-16 league) have eight Area C "A" games left prior to the tournament play-in games Monday, July 19. The actual district tourney opens Wednesday, July 21 in American Falls.
Wood River visits Jerome for two league contests today, Friday, July 9, then entertains Snake River Tuesday, July 13 at 4 p.m. and Hillcrest Wednesday, July 14 at 4 p.m. to finish the home season at Founders.