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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of July 25 - July 31, 2001


Nelson tourney full of cheers, some tears

Big-hearted WR South fights to second place

Express Staff Writer

There were cheers and tears during the 30th annual Ray Nelson Invitational Little League Tournament Friday and Saturday at Nelson Field.

Wood River 9-10 year-old player Alejandro Cruz snags a line drive during Nelson Invitational action last Friday. Express photo by Willy Cook

Certainly some tears fell for the 9-10 year-old Wood River South squad (7-2) which showed so much heart, playing six games on Saturday before falling to Twin Falls 6-5 in the "if-necessary" championship.

But their parents and fans mainly had hearts full of pride.

"It was awesome," coach Mike Brunker said. "We played great."

Coming in third place in the 11-12 Major League Division was Wood River East (3-3).

"The competition was easily the toughest our team has faced all year," assistant coach Pete Kramer said.

The tournament, held in memory of Raymond Nelson, was staged in Hailey at Nelson Fields, Wood River High School and Lions Park.


Doing it the hard way

Playing in a 12-team field, Wood River did things the hard way, working their way through the loser bracket to the 9-10 championship contest.

The "Southies" opened with a narrow 5-4 victory over Buhl, but fell 5-4 to Meridian in the next round. Wood River closed out play on Friday with a 15-0 shutout of Wood River North.

Saturday was a long, memorable day on the diamond.

Game for anything, the South squad had three games under their belt by lunchtime, beating Jerome 2-1, Boise 12-4 and Salmon 12-2. "We’re going the long way," Brunker noted.

With all the games, the players’ parents had the drill down. At the end of the third game, they were up out of their seats and had the victory tunnel formed even before the kids started shaking hands.

Meanwhile, the Twin Falls Pioneers were cruising through the winner bracket, posting victories of 16-10 over Three Rivers, 17-2 over Salmon, 13-7 over Boise and 12-10 against Meridian in the semis.

That pitted Wood River against Meridian in the loser-out final. Brunker was upbeat, though. He said, "Today we are rattling the bats and we have plenty of pitching."

South won easily, 14-4, to earn the right to play Twin Falls in the championship.

Twin Falls led 3-1 in the third when Wood River went to work. Travis Job reached base on an error and Brian Tidwell beat out a bunt and Michale Brunker swatted a single to load the bases.

Nol Gordon earned a full-count walk to score a run and Spencer Fullmer also took a pass. All ended up scoring to take a 6-3 lead.

Gordon (16 strikeouts in 17 innings), tossed a terrific game, allowing just four hits and no base on balls. Staked to a one-run lead, he needed a little bit of help from his defense in the bottom of the sixth.

Twin Falls’ Mike Williams led off the final frame with a double and it looked like the Pioneers might rally. Then, Gordon enticed a ground ball to shortstop Michale Brunker. Brunker threw to first baseman Spencer Fullmer for the first out and Fullmer rifled the ball to third baseman Matthew Hurless for a 6-3-5 double play.

The timely play killed the rally and South won 6-5.

The teams traded jabs in the if-necessary championship. Wood River took a 2-1 lead on runs by Gordon and Hurless, but the Pioneers answered to knot the game 3-3 in the third.

Travis Job and Hayden Waller manufactured runs in the fourth to put Wood River on top 5-3, but Twin tacked on a pair in the bottom of the frame for a 5-5 tie and added one more in the sixth to win 6-5.

Despite the disappointment, the South parents did their thing—that’s right, the victory tunnel for a truly great effort.

"Mentally we were a little tired by that sixth game," coach Brunker said. "We played back to back from 9:30 a.m. on. It was pretty intense."

Batting leaders for the South were Brunker (.520), Kevan Abbott (.460), Hurless (.300), Gus Englehardt (.270) and Tidwell (.270).

Pitcher Shane Cardan fanned 17 batters over 15 frames. Morgan Brashears had six strikeouts. Also contributing were Patrick Gove, Tanner Orchard and Rex Nilsen. Assistant coaches were Greg Abbott and Steve Job.

The Southies (23-7) aren’t finished yet. They will participate in a Twin Falls tournament this weekend.

The other valley team in the 9-10 bracket, Wood River North, compiled an 0-3 record.


Major League Division

The Wood River East juggernaut ran into an iceberg in the form of the Jerome Tigers Saturday. Both teams were undefeated heading into Saturday’s semifinal.

WR East had rolled to huge wins over the Jerome Cougars 12-0, Vallivue 12-6, Rupert 8-4 prior to their contest against the Tigers. But Jerome prevailed 8-2 over Wood River.

East met Rupert in the loser-out final and rallied from an 8-3 deficit with a two-out, three run push in the fifth, featuring a key double by Jimmy Pierson. East then loaded the bases in the sixth, but couldn’t score to finish up an 8-6 loss.

In a field of 16, Jerome went on to win the championship with a 6-5 triumph over Rupert.

Wood River West wound up 1-2 for the Nelson weekend.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.