It's been a learning process for the Wood River American Legion baseball team, which dropped its first four Area C "A" games of the summer season by a combined 53-23 score.
But you play the game with nine players, and all nine contributed big time for Wood River Monday during an 11-9 league win over the Buhl Tribe in the first game of a twinbill at Hailey's Founders Field.
Head coach Trent Seamons said, "I'm proud of the way the kids competed. We're getting better every week and our confidence is building."
Leading the way in Wood River's first triumph of the season was winning pitcher Finn Isaacson. The wiry righthander threw strikes and pitched six strong innings as Wood River rallied from a 4-0 first-inning deficit to shock the Tribe.
He also contributed big time at the plate. Isaacson (4 hits, 3 RBI) reached every trip with a pair of clutch, two-out RBI hits.
The top five hitters in Hailey's batting order went 10-for-16 with 10 runs scored and 8 RBI. They were leadoff hitter Cam Benson (3 walks, 4 runs), shortstop Zach Israel (3 hits, 2 runs), left fielder Austin Hafer (triple), center fielder Alex Padilla (3 RBI) and Isaacson.
Besides making two strong defensive plays at third base, Ben Williams switched positions with Isaacson and became the closer in the seventh. Williams preserved the Hailey lead and stranded the potential tying runs on base with a strikeout and long fly ball.
Early on, it looked like Buhl's game to win.
Isaacson (92 pitches, 10 hits, 1 BB, 3 K) labored in the first inning when Buhl batted around for four runs on six hits. He threw 29 pitches in that stanza, but settled down and retired nine of the next 10 on just 24 pitches in the second, third and fourth frames.
At the plate, Wood River (out-hitting Buhl 13-12) chipped away in its first four at-bats and pulled ahead 6-4 with three two-run innings. But Isaacson ran into trouble again with Buhl batting around for four runs and an 8-6 lead in the fifth.
That Tribe rally ended when Wood River's Hafer made a strong throw home to nail a Buhl runner at the plate, catcher Braxton Parish applying the tag. Hafer played baseball this spring for Mountain View (19-10), which earned third in the State 5A tourney.
After his fine fielding play, Hafer led off the home fifth and blasted a long triple to left that sparked Wood River's three-run response for a 9-8 lead.
Padilla singled Hafer home, then Isaacson and Parish followed with RBI hits. Wood River greeted Buhl reliever Matt Hamilton rudely with five straight hits before Hamilton was able to record an out.
Isaacson retired the top of Buhl's order 1-2-3 on only eight pitches in the sixth. Then Wood River, which scored runs in five of its six at-bats, tacked on two insurance runs in the home sixth after Benson's third leadoff walk of the game. Padilla and Isaacson each delivered two-out RBI hits for an 11-8 cushion for reliever Williams.
First baseman Marshall Reyburn added two hits and scored a run for Wood River. For Buhl, Joel Hamilton (2 hits, 3 RBI) and Brandon Bankuela (3 hits, 2 RBI) led the attack.
In Monday's nightcap, Buhl jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first inning and coasted to a 17-7 run-rule victory over Wood River (1-5). Padilla threw four solid innings of middle relief for Wood River in that one.
Last Saturday, Wood River traveled to Pocatello and dropped a 10-0 and 8-6 league doubleheader to the Razorbacks. The Hailey boys managed only three hits in the five-inning opener, but more than doubled that number with seven hits in the nightcap led by Padilla (3 hits, 2 triples).
In the nightcap, Wood River trailed 5-1 in the second but chipped away and tied the game 6-6 in the fifth. Reyburn added two hits and Tim Boyle scored two runs for Hailey.
Wood River hosted the Burley Green Sox Tuesday, Burley coming off a 15-2, 19-7 home pasting by Sugar City Monday.
Next, Wood River competes in the Wingers Wood Bat Father's Day Classic tournament Thursday through Sunday, June 16-19 at Rodeo Park in Nampa. There are six teams in this year's "A" Bracket.
Wood River will get to play five games over four days.
Here is the schedule:
Thursday, June 16: At 4 p.m., Wood River vs. Pocatello. At 6 p.m., barbecue for all players and coaches at Rodeo Park.
Friday, June 17: At 2 p.m., Wood River vs. Seminoles.
Saturday, June 18: At 4:30 p.m., Wood River vs. Kuna; and at 7 p.m., Wood River vs. Nampa.
Sunday, June 19: At 12 noon, Wood River vs. Vallivue.
The Wranglers will then resume action next week with an overnight trip to eastern Idaho, playing Hillcrest at Idaho Falls Tuesday, June 21 at 3 p.m. and the Blackfoot Broncos next Wednesday at 2 p.m.