One year older and wiser, players on the Wood River Wranglers American Legion baseball team for 19-and-under boys got off to a much better start to their season this week, compared to last year.
Wood River (2-2) opened its Area C "A" season Monday by splitting a road doubleheader with Kimberly Astros. Coach Trent Seamons' Wranglers stayed on the road Tuesday and divided a twinbill in Idaho Falls with Skyline Grizzlies.
Last year's young Wranglers started their season 2-12 before finishing up 7-17 for first-year head coach Seamons.
This week's highlights were Monday's 15-14 victory in the nightcap at Kimberly, and Wood River's 6-1 opening-game triumph over Skyline on Tuesday afternoon at Tautphaus Park with Austin Hafer (2 K, 3 BB) throwing a complete-game three-hitter for Hailey.
Hafer spotted the Grizzlies a single run in the first inning and allowed no runs in the final six frames. He got plenty of help from the Hailey defense.
Seamons said, "We played really good defense, particularly in the infield."
Around the horn the infield included third baseman Alec Nordsieck, shortstop Zach Israel, second baseman Armando Gomez and first baseman Gunnar Gibson. The catcher was Nic "Pickle" Brunker.
Israel ripped three hits including a double in Wood River's 10-hit attack and Safer chipped in two safeties. The Wranglers continued their strong attack with 12 hits in the 8-6 nightcap loss to the Grizzlies, but just couldn't climb out of an early 7-3 hole.
"The boys battled and were able to get back into the game," said Seamons, who was helped coaching this summer by Tyler Israel and Greg Wakefield.
Summing up the four-game road swing, Seamons said it was an encouraging start to the 20-game hardball campaign.
Brunker delivered three hits, Hafer two and Gomez two in the nightcap at Idaho Falls. Sharing the mound duties were Finn Isaacson (4 innings) and Zach Israel (2 innings, 3 K).
At Kimberly on Monday, consistent right-handed pitcher Tim Boyle opened the season with a complete-game effort in an 8-4 loss to Kimberly. "Tim threw really well but Kimberly just kept finding the holes," said Seamons.
The second game turned into a wild one—Wood River building a 15-11 lead but needing to hold off the Astros in the final stanza to win 15-14.
Cam Benson was the long reliever for starter Gomez and Hafer, and he was "effectively wild," Seamons said, alluding to Benson's 11 walks in five innings of work. Kimberly rallied for three runs in its final at-bat and had the bases loaded when Benson finally put out the fire with a pair of strikeouts and a comebacker to the mound.
Hafer was the man with the bat in his hands, stroking six hits in the twinbill at Kimberly. Seamons said the Wranglers (31 runs in 4 games) hit the ball very well and scored a lot of runs for their openers.
Wood River returns to action Monday, June 18 with its home debut against the Twin Falls Cowboys for a league doubleheader at Founders Field at 3 p.m.
It's back on the road to face Buhl's Tribe on Tuesday, June 19.