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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2004


NW Ada Runs Gauntlet, Wins Nelson Tourney

Express Staff Correspondent

It isnít easy to play six baseball games in one day. Winning all six, including two championship games, is even harder.

Yet thatís exactly what Northwest Ada County did on Saturday to capture the 11-12 "Majors" championship in the 33rd annual Ray Nelson Little League Invitational Tournament held in Hailey this past weekend.

Local Wood River teams, including Wood River North and Wood River South of the "Majors" division and Wood River of the "Minors" division had strong showings, with each team playing into Saturday of the two-day tournament.

But it was NW Ada (8-1 on the weekend) who showed the balance of defense and offense needed to win eight games in two days. NW Ada began their six-game Saturday at 8 AM and capped off the championship at 6 PM.

Led by a relentless hitting attack and solid pitching, NW Ada toppled the winnerís bracket leader Buhl by scores of 14-4 and 16-4 to capture the title.

In championship game number one, Chris Berry of NW Ada was a homerun away from the cycle, going 4-4, with two singles, a double, and a triple. A four-run second inning and a six-run third helped NW Ada force a second game.

Finishing the tournament outscoring their opponents 90-24, NW Ada still looked fresh in championship game number two.

Although Tanner Owen put Buhl ahead 3-1 in the first inning with a two-RBI double, NW Ada answered back with a 9-run fifth inning. Leading hitter Kyle Nelson (13-30, .430, five doubles in the tournament) led the way in the second championship game, going 3-4 for NW Ada. The six-inning, 16-4 10-run ruled championship game gave NW Ada their first Ray Nelson Tournament championship.

Runner-up Buhl was led by Owen, who went 11-18 (.610), including a grand slam against the Twin Falls Patriots Saturday morning. JD Leckerby of Buhl was also hot, going 9-16 (.560), including a homerun.

For the local teams, finding consistent offense and pitching was a harder task.

Wood River North of the "Majors" division led the Hailey teams in the tournament, going 3-2 with 56 runs scored and 17 allowed.

It was a heartbreaker in game number 22 of the tournament that almost gave Wood River North a chance to move ahead to face NW Ada in the loserís bracket semifinals.

Facing Rupert in a win-or-go-home game, Wood River North stormed back in the top of the fifth with five runs to close the gap, 8-7, Rupert leading.

In the bottom of the fifth, with the 90 minute time rule close to expiring, Wood Rive North shortstop Kevin Abbott made an amazing catch and throw on a line-drive to double up the runner at first. The final outs of the fifth came with only minutes to spare on the time limit and gave Wood River North new life in the top of the sixth.

But it wasnít meant to be, as Wood River North managed only a single hit in the top of the sixth. Rupert advanced, 8-7, and eventually lost to NW Ada, 7-6.

With wins over Nampa (22-0), the Boise Heat (15-3), and the NW Coyotes (8-1), Wood River North enjoyed plenty of offense throughout the tournament. Their other loss came to Meridian in another close game, 5-4.

Shortstop Abbott was all but automatic at the plate, leading the team with a .720 average (13-18). Jimmy Hague also swung well, going 7-16 (.440) with a homerun. Nick Crosby contributed a homerun in a 2-3 game against NW Coyotes.

For the Wood River South "Majors" team, it was a story of tough draws to start the tournament. Facing championship game participants Buhl and NW Ada in two out of their first three games, Wood River South found themselves 1-2 and in the consolation bracket at the end of the first day.

But they made the best of it, collecting two wins against the Twin Falls Americans (7-2) and Nampa (7-0) on Saturday before falling to the Jerome 12ís in the consolation championship game by a score of 8-0.

Their other win came against the same Twin Falls Americans on Friday, by a score of 16-3.

Taylor Hendricks went 8-12 (.670) for Wood River South. Kanner Sanders also contributed a 7-13 (.540) tournament, including a 3-4, two double game against the Twin Falls Americans.

On the hill, Nathan Farrow and Sanders combined for a five-hit, six-strikeout shutout performance against Nampa in their 7-0 victory.

Both Wood River North and Wood River South finished in the top half of the 14-team "Majors" division of the Ray Nelson Invitational, along with being third (North) and fourth (South) in runs scored in the tournament.

For the young 9-10 "Minors" division, it was a battle of Twin Falls for the championship. The Twin Falls Pioneers upended the Twin Falls Cowboys 18-3 in the championship game. Pioneers number two hitter Eller went 3-4 with two RBIís and three runs.
Wood River won their first game against the Twin Falls Cowboys (8-4), then fell to Jerome (12-4) and Ada County (11-7) in the consolation championship. Josh Brooks went 2-3 in their lone victory, along with Nick Brunkerís 3-3 performance.

The Ray Nelson Invitational tournament held 43 games over the course of Friday and Saturday. With the help of local volunteers, including tournament organizer Mike Brunker, games were played at all three Nelson fields, along with Lions Park.

The tournament is named after Ray Nelson, a baseball booster and enthusiast from the Wood River Valley who passed away in 1970.


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