Freshman designated hitter Shelby Cooper picked the per-fect time to belt her first var-sity home run for the Wood River High School softball team Wednesday evening in Hailey.
With the Jerome Tigers in rally mode and Wood River's early 6-0 lead nibbled away to 9-8 in the sixth, Cooper drove a three-run homer over the left field fence completing all the scoring in the 12-8 Hailey win.
One inning before, Wood River senior pitcher Ali Levy had ripped her second homer of the season way over the score-board in left field, a two-run blast, putting the home team on top 8-3. But Jerome's reigning league champs rallied with five runs for an 8-8 tie in the sixth.
Wood River, having with-stood a 10-hit, eight-run Jerome comeback in the fifth and sixth, needed to score in its home sixth—and leadoff hitter Madi-son Gove (2 hits, 4 runs) opened with a wicked opposite-field triple down the left field line.
An infield hit by second baseman Mercedes Powell (3 hits, 3 runs, 3 RBI) and a Jerome infield error set the table for Cooper. The promis-ing ninth-grader wasted no time cranking Colby Argyle's first offering over the fence.
The outcome in the Great Basin Conference showdown gave Wood River (8-8, 7-2 league) a three-game season sweep over Jerome (10-7, 6-6) and kept the Wolverines in the hunt for the top seed in the six-team league tournament be-ginning Saturday, May 7.
Wood River coach Dale Mar-tin said, "The name of the game is pitching, defense and timely hitting. We hit the ball well and at the right times today. And we didn't panic when Jerome got back into the game. Some of our teams in the past would have folded, but we stayed up and came out in the sixth in-ning and took it to them.
"Other teams are going to hit the ball against us, so we've got to catch it and we did that against Jerome. I really like this team and I'm proud of it. We've gone through adversity, losing two key players and with all the weather. And through it we've stayed together."
Wood River, now controlling its own tournament seeding fate with Wednesday's win over Jerome, will need to stay to-gether in its biggest test of the season this weekend. That's because of Hailey's three-game series with league-leading Canyon Ridge of Twin Falls.
A sweep of Canyon Ridge (16-3, 10-2) followed by a sweep of the Minico Spartans (3-13, 0-9) next Tuesday and Wednes-day would put Wood River in the top-seed driver's seat. Also contending is Twin Falls (10-6, 9-3), which battles against Jerome this weekend.
Though Canyon Ridge, Twin Falls and Wood River seem to be the top three teams, nobody wants to play the youthful and hard-hitting Jerome Tigers. Jerome out-hit Wood River 12-11 Wednesday. Don't forget the Tigers smashed 31 hits and scored 29 runs in taking one of three games from Canyon Ridge earlier this spring.
But Hailey senior righty Levy (7-6) had the Tiger num-ber early in Wednesday's game. Levy (100 pitches, 7 earned runs, 2 BB, 3 K) needed only 36 pitches to hold the Tigers scoreless with two hits in the first four innings. Wood River built an early 6-0 cushion.
Gove's leadoff single and freshman Powell's RBI double in the first helped Wood River to a 3-0 lead. Two walks, an-other Powell RBI double and a run-scoring single by first sacker Sydney Tidwell (2 hits) sparked a two-out rally for a 5-0 Wolverine lead in the second.
The bottom of the Jerome lineup and leadoff hitter Paige Jackman (4 hits, 3 RBI) did most of the Tiger damage against Levy. The hard Tiger line drives that were outs in the early innings started find-ing gaps in the fifth and sixth.
If Levy threw 36 pitches breezing through four frames, she threw 51 battling pitches in the fifth and sixth alone. Its bats suddenly on fire, Jerome batted around in the sixth high-lighted by a two-run homer by Taylor Molt and two-run dou-ble by No. 9 Kylie Fullmer.
A big defensive play came when speedy Jackman was cut down on the basepaths for the second out of the sixth on a re-lay from center fielder Madison Gove to catcher Kori Paradis to third baseman Taylor Gove. Although Jackman (3 RBI) had four hits, she never scored a run for the Tigers Wednesday.
Fortunately, Wood River had the top of its order (11-for-21, 10 RBI for its 1-2-3-4-5-6 hit-ters) coming up in the sixth. Lefty Madison Gove lashed Ar-gyle's first pitch on one hop to the left field fence for a triple. Cooper, whose leadoff double preceded Levy's bomb in the fifth, blasted Argyle's first pitch for the three-run homer that finally sealed the deal.