Typical of a young and inex-perienced team, Wood River High School baseball players made some outstanding plays and muffed easy ones during Tuesday's Great Basin Confer-ence make-up game with Bur-ley at Hailey's Founders Field.
But the main obstacle for coach Matt Nelson's Wolver-ines was hard-throwing Bobcat righthander Jake Mills. The senior Bobcat ace tossed a three-hit shutout with eight strikeouts and no walks in re-surgent Burley's 10-0 run-rule, six-inning league victory.
Mills has been a big obstacle for all of Burley's opponents since returning to full-time duty from his broken hand in-jury April 6, just three weeks ago. He hit a grand slam homer in his first at-bat leading Bur-ley to a 10-6 home win over Century that day. His presence has helped the 'Cats to eight wins in nine games since.
On Tuesday, Mills allowed only one leadoff hit and needed only 71 pitches to subdue a de-pleted Wood River squad that has lost its starting sophomore catcher Nick Brunker to in-jury—and also played without Collin Dean and Connor Bra-atz, no longer with the team.
Eight of nine Burley batters contributed hits in the 11-hit 'Cat attack. Burley's 1-2-3-4 bat-ters Alex Larson, Cody Moon, Jackson Kunz and Mills went a combined 7-for-12 with 7 runs scored off of Hailey righty Zach Israel (83 pitches, 3 K, 1 BB).
For Wood River, second baseman Jake Freeman had a leadoff single in the second, right fielder Brandon Beall belted a long one-out triple to the center field fence in the third and center fielder Alex Padilla legged out a two-out infield single in the home sixth.
Otherwise, the main Wood River highlights came in the field—and there were some low-lights when the defense couldn't execute fundamental plays and ended up giving Bur-ley four or five outs an inning.
The Wood River outfield turned two double plays. Beall made a shoe-top snag of a crisply struck Kunz line drive in the first and doubled base-runner Moon off of first base. In the fourth, Padilla caught a line drive in center and dou-bled off another 'Cat at first.
Padilla also made a diving catch of a line drive in the fifth, and left fielder Kevin Jensen threw base-runner Kunz out at the plate on a strong throw to catcher Alex Thomas.
Most notably, third baseman Ben Williams made a highlight-reel stab going to his right of a wicked grounder by Mills, then got up and threw out Burley's star clean-up hitter at first.
But five Wood River errors and five Burley extra-base hits ended the game early and ele-vated the Bobcats (12-7, 9-3) to a second-place league tie with Minico of Rupert (14-5, 9-3). Burley and Minico play a three-game series starting today.
Wood River's "Senior Night" is today, Friday, at 4:30 p.m. in a league game against the Can-yon Ridge Riverhawks at Founders Field. The Wolver-ines visit Canyon Ridge in Twin Falls Saturday for a 12 noon double-dip that will settle the final two GBC seeds.
The GBC tournament opens Tuesday, May 3. Wood River and Canyon Ridge will battle this weekend for the fifth and sixth seeds, and likely first-round tourney visits to Burley and Jerome next Tuesday.
Wood River (3-16, 1-11 league) has been starved for runs during a nine-game losing skid that includes four shutout losses and only 16 runs scored. Canyon Ridge (6-12, 1-11) brings an identical league record into the three-game weekend set.