Friday, July 16, 2010

With some help, Legion sweeps Hillcrest 7-6, 18-4

Brunker’s grounder drives home winning runs

Express Staff Writer

Wood River Wranglers second baseman Nic Brunker follows through on his two-out, full-count ground ball that drove home the winning two runs in Wednesday’s 7-6 Hailey victory over the Hillcrest Royals at Founders Field. Photo by David N. Seelig

Sometimes you need a little help from the team in the other dugout to win a baseball game.

That's what the Wood River American Legion Wranglers got from the visiting Hillcrest Royals from Idaho Falls during Wednesday's home summer season finale at Founders Field.

Helped by two infield errors, both coming with two outs, Wood River completed a seventh-inning comeback from a 6-3 deficit to beat the Royals 7-6 in the first game of the Area C "A" doubleheader in Hailey.

Second baseman Nic Brunker's hard-hit ground ball plated the winning runs.

Red-hot Wood River (15-19, 10-5 home, 9-16 league) scored four runs with two outs in the final inning, stretching its winning streak to seven games. The Wranglers added a five-inning, 18-4 run-rule victory in Wednesday's nightcap to make it 11 wins in their last 16 games.

The doubleheader sweep solidified Wood River's chances of playing in next week's district tournament.

Yet some fine pitching by Hillcrest righthander Ian Ence (87 pitches in 6 innings, 9 hits, 3 runs, 6 K) put the Wranglers in a deep hole for most of Wednesday's opener. Ence blanked Wood River in the first four innings while his team built a 6-0 lead in the fifth.

Zach Israel (3 hits) doubled home Collin Dean (2 hits) and Keven Abbott to get Wood River on the board in the home fifth. With his team trailing 6-2, Wranglers coach Matt Nelson removed starter Jake Freeman (101 pitches, 5 innings, 4 earned runs, 5 BB, 6 K) and brought in righty reliever Taz Lyons.

Lyons pitched great, keeping the ball low and shutting out the Royals on just one hit in the sixth and seventh innings. He earned the pitching victory.

In the sixth, Jimmy Hague doubled and scored on a wild pitch, cutting the deficit to 6-3. That's the last Wood River saw of Royals pitcher Ence. Hillcrest summoned its closer, Nate Elliott, for the seventh, but it didn't work out as they hoped.

With one out, Israel worked a walk on a full count pitch and catcher Alex Padilla (2 hits) moved Israel up with a long double to right field—and Israel scored on a wild pitch. Hague had a great at-bat similar to Israel's, drawing a two-out walk on a full count.

Freeman, who had stayed in the game at first base, lifted a high infield popper behind the pitcher's mound that looked like a certain game-ending catch—but the ball dropped for an error and Padilla scored.

With runners at second and third and a full count and his team behind 6-5, Brunker slapped a wicked two-out bouncer that eluded the Royals' shortstop and chased across Hague and Freeman with the winning unearned runs.

Righthander Tyler Peters (5 innings, 7 hits, 4 runs, 4 BB, 4 K) got the pitching win in the lopsided nightcap. Wood River batted around in its seven-run first and then scored nine more runs in the fourth, thanks to six walks and a two-run single by Collin Dean (2 hits, 2 runs).

Contributors were Brunker (2 hits, double, 3 runs), Padilla (3 runs), Abbott (2 hits, double, 2 runs), Israel (2 runs) and Brandon Beall (RBI grounder).

The regular season winds up today, Friday, July 16 with a 12 noon league twinbill against Marsh Falls on the American Falls diamond. Wood River expects to qualify for next week's 12-team Area C "A" tourney in American Falls.

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