Playing its best baseball of the season, the Wood River High School baseball team called on youth to boost veterans and put together two gritty efforts during the 4A Great Basin Conference tournament.
No. 6-seeded Wood River (3-21) lost to No. 3 Burley (15-1) by score of 6-5 May 3 at Burley and went down to the wire with No. 5 Canyon Ridge (13-13) May 5 in Twin Falls before dropping a 4-2 decision.
The Wolverines did it with excellent starting pitching from seniors Jake Freeman and Zach Israel and improved defense. Over 24 games Wood River's defense yielded 9.6 runs per game, but the Hailey boys gave up only 10 runs in the two Great Basin tourney nailbiters.
"I was impressed with the players we had down the stretch," said head coach Matt Nelson. "We brought up three freshmen and two sophomores. They helped us and changed the whole dynamic of our var-sity team.
< "Finn Isaacson came up and played shortstop both district games, and Ben Williams played outstanding defense at third base. Tim Boyle came up as catcher and did a great job for us in the district tourna-ment. We should have a good group next year.
"At the plate we simplified things, got more disciplined and forced the other pitchers to throw a lot more balls and pitch them down the middle of the plate. We could have won both games we played in the tournament.
"Jake Freeman has a heckuva future as a pitcher, and Zach Israel ended the sea-son better than I could have imagined. He was just dealing in that close game against Can-yon Ridge—held them scoreless for the first five innings and only gave them four unearned runs in the sixth."
Seniors leading the way in hitting for the season were Alex Padilla (.354, 10 RBI), Kevin Jensen (.353) and Israel (.331, 9 RBI). Senior Alex Tho-mas went 6-for-8 with 5 RBI in the tournament.
The young players are now looking forward to the Ameri-can Legion baseball season in June with first-year coach Trent Seamons, now playing college baseball in Kentucky. Mike Brunker and Jim Braatz will be the managers of the 2011 Legion team.