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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2004


Preston upstages Wood River at state baseball

Comeback kid Parker gets hit, again, and Indians win 4-2

Express Staff Writer

Todd Parker is a great name for a saddle bronc rider or steer wrestler.

Wood River will rely on players like Tyler Thiede next season as they climb up into the 4A ranks and tougher competition. Express photo by David N. Seelig

But the 2004 Wood River High School baseball team will remember Todd Parker as the player who got hit with a baseball. Not once, but twiceóonce while pitching, once batting.

Righthanded pitcher Parker got smashed in the side of the face with a batted ball in the first inning of Wood Riverís 14-10 home win over Preston April 16 at Founders Field in Hailey. The frightening impact knocked Parker unconscious for a few anxious minutes and put him in the hospital.

Doctors considered Parkerís head injury and broken earbone so serious that they warned him that any more baseball this season was probably out of the question.

Word filtered across the lava flats in the weeks after the incident that Parkerís sports future was in jeopardy, even with a football scholarship to Idaho State University just waiting for prospective defensive back.

Slowly and surely, Parker bounced back.

He started coming out to Indian practices. Champing at the bit, he started bugging Indian coach Mike Hansen about playing baseball again. Parker realized he was a senior, with precious few weeks left in his prep athletic life.

When Preston qualified for last weekendís State 3A baseball tournament as the second place team out of the Fifth District, Parker went to Hansen and told him he wanted to play. That was nine days ago, just three days before the start of the state tourney.

"I told Todd, I needed to see a release from a doctor and the written approval of his parents," said Hansen. "By the next day, I had both the release and the approval in my hand."

Parker started in the outfield for Preston Thursday afternoon and drove home four runs in the 10-0 Indian victory over Timberlake on the first day of the eight-team 3A tournament staged at Treasure Valley Community Collegeís diamond in Ontario, Ore.

"It was a huge lift for us to see him back," said coach Hansen. "Most people would have been content to take a seat, but Todd was driving the entire team with his energy."

The way Parker explained the situation was, well, like a bronc rider or bulldogger.

He said, "My grandpa always told me that if youíre bucked off a horse, youíve got to get back on. And I always listen to my grandpa."

Baseball has a marvelous symmetry that is unlike any other sport. Out of hundreds of games and bad bounces and good breaks and lineup changes and countless possibilities for high drama, youíre likely to have a game boil down to the most fitting scenario.

Of course, Wood River and Preston ended up clashing in Fridayís all-important semi-final game at the state tournament, and who else but Parker came up to the plate with the game hanging in the balance in the fourth inning, and Wood River ahead 2-1.

Clinging to a 2-1 lead, that is.

Because, after the Wolverines built an early 2-0 lead on Brady Femlingís two-out, two-run single in the second, Preston kept putting men on base and taking Wood River righthander Tyson Reynoso deep in the counts.

The Indians stranded three runners in the second without scoring. After right fielder Kolby Rawlings clouted a Reynoso offering over the fence for a one-out solo jack in the third, Preston left the bases loaded. In the fourth, they filled the bases again.

Parker came up with two outs. Reynoso had fanned Parker twice on high fastballs in two earlier at-bats. "I got a little nervous swinging at those pitches," said Parker. Then, on Reynosoís 108th pitch of the game, in only the fourth, he did the unthinkable. He hit Parker.

In the shoulder.

The tying run walked home.

Rattled, Wood River failed to realize that southpaw swinger Tylor Maxfield, the next batter, was salivating over the prospect of an outside pitch he could punch to left field. No defensive adjustments were made, and Maxfield got the pitch he wanted. He dropped in a two-run single. That was that.

Preston led 4-2, which ended up being the final score.

Wood River had three more at-bats against Prestonís southpaw junkball pitcher Shawn Thomson, only a sophomore. But Thomsonís flutter-in the-wind offerings were so tempting that the Wolverines generally popped them up, even with the sacks loaded and one out in the sixth. The threat gone by, Wood River went quietly.

Coach Lars Hovey, realizing Wood Riverís hope of defending its state championship had also disappeared, said, "We didnít hit well today."

For his part, coach Hansen had a few anxious moments when Wood River filled the bases and admitted he was one batter away from summoning Todd Parker to the hill in relief. But Hansen didnít need to.

"Shawn Thomson has never been hit hard all season. He kept us in the gameóthe calmest kid on the field," Hansen said about Thomson, who finished with a 116-pitch six-hitter.

Femling led Wood Riverís attack with three hits from the leadoff spot in the batting order. And the fielding play of the game was made by third baseman Ted Dankanyin, who speared a tough grounder and got the force out at home in the fourthóbefore Parker and Maxfield spoiled things.

There is nothing as demoralizing as losing a 4-2 game in the state semi-final, and nothing as exhilarating as winning one. The South Fremont Cougars had a similar great feeling, beating Bear Lake 4-2 in the other semi-final Friday and advancing into Saturdayís title game against Preston.

In a tournament anyone could have won but which ended with a rare eastern Idaho match-up, South Fremont (20-8) spoiled Prestonís state dream 15-12 in nine innings Saturday. It was South Fremontís first state title since 1991. Preston finished 22-10.

Knowing they had beaten South Fremont 6-0 at the Preston tournament April 30óSouth Fremontís only loss in a terrific late-season streakóthe Wolverines were left to wonder what happened in May. They were 4-4 over the last three weeks, and 20-3 before.

Defensive lapses come to mind.

Saturday afternoon, in the tough-to-get-excited-about third-place game against Bear Lake, Wood River committed five errors and dug a 10-4 hole before rallying with five runs with two outs in the seventh inning. Steve Hansenís RBI triple was the big hit.

But Bear Lake held on 10-9.

Certainly the most valuable player on this yearís Wolverine team was righthanded pitcher Hansen (9-2, 17-3 two seasons). He won six straight games to end the season and allowed only 11 runs in those six victories.

And Hansen was masterful against the Middleton Vikings Thursday.

He needed only 99 pitches to tame the Third District champions on a tidy five-hitter and Hansen struck out the side in the seventh to end the gameóWood River winning a big one 3-2. He walked two batters and whiffed six.

Although Wood River committed three errors, only one that delivered the second run really hurt the Wolverines, and Hansen also benefited from good defense in his triumph. Jonathan Dittmer made a fine running catch in center, Reynoso backhanded a tough grounder at third, and Tyler Thiede made a great scoop at first for the out.

The cardinal rule of winning tough games at state is getting two-out hits, and Wood River was extremely successful in that department against Middleton. After leaving the bases loaded in the second, the Wolverines went three-for-four in two-out RBI situations and that was the difference.

Joe Paisley, whose line drive hit Parker in April, was hobbled by an ankle injury for Wood River at state. He hadnít played for two weeks, compared to Parker being out of the Indian lineup for five weeks.

But "Most Inspirational" Wood River player Paisley was just as determined as his counterpart Todd Parker to return and motivate his team at state. Joe ripped three singles and drove home two runs pulling Wood River into a 2-2 tie.

After catcher Billy Kramer opened the visitor sixth by getting plunked, Femling drilled a 2-1 pitch into left field to drive home pinch runner Dankanyin with the two-out RBI that pushed Wood River (8 hits) ahead 3-2 for its first lead.

Wood Riverís defense pulled off a double play to get Hansen out of trouble in the home sixth. Hansen did the rest with three whiffs in the seventhóone looking, one swinging and the final one put in the book by Kramerís throw to Thiede.

The 1-2 outcome for fourth place at state wasnít Wood Riverís best in the Hailey schoolís last trip to the State 3A tournament before moving up to 4A next spring.

But the Wolverines ended 24-7 and set a school record for the fewest runs allowed, 108.

Unfortunately, they were upstaged by Preston and Todd Parker in the biggest game of the season.

And where was it, Todd, that you were hit this time? "In the shoulder," Parker said, a broad grin on his smiling, fully recuperated face after Prestonís 4-2 victory Friday night.


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