They were down to their final out, trailing 4-2, but Wood River American Legion baseball players battled back and rallied for a 5-4 win over the Burley Green Sox Monday in the first game of an Area C “A” twinbill at Founders Field.
Wood River’s senior, Nickolaus Brunker, sliced a two-out, two-run opposite field triple down the right field line to tie the game 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning. In the ninth inning with two out and the bases loaded, Brunker scored the winner on a passed ball.
It was Wood River’s second straight extra inning league triumph, coming on the heels of the 7-5 Wrangler road victory at Bear Lake July 10. The way the Wranglers battled back from a 3-0 deficit against reigning district and state Legion champion Burley put a smile on the face of coach Trent Seamons.
Especially in this final week of the regular season, with six of the nine West Division teams including Wood River and Burley earning playoff spots in the 12-team Area C “A” district tournament scheduled to open Thursday, July 25 in Pocatello.
Seamons said about the 5-4 victory, “A huge win. A lot of teams are bunched up in this final week of the season and nothing has been settled yet.”
In the second game of Monday’s splendid Hailey doubleheader, Burley’s crafty lefthander Mario Del-Bosque scattered seven hits in a 92-pitch complete game and the Green Sox held off Wood River 2-1 for a split of the Area C “A” Western Division two-game set.
Wood River (11-14, 4-4 home, 6-8 league) hosted Madison of Rexburg for a non-divisional twinbill Tuesday. Then it’s off to the Twin Falls Hawks for a divisional twinbill Friday, July 19. Shelley invades Founders for the regular-season home finale Saturday, also counting as non-divisional games.
Monday’s meeting with Burley turned out to be a highlight of a Wranglers season that has produced several high points, especially after the 5-14 and 7-17 summer campaigns of 2012 and 2011. Wood River last qualified for the district tourney in 2010, ending with an 18-22 record.
Under coach Devin Kunz, Burley has fielded outstanding baseball teams in recent years. Green Sox Legion teams had beaten Wood River five straight times by a combined 61-21 score since 2010. In high school play, Burley had owned Wood River with 12 consecutive wins by a combined 127-34 score since the Hailey boys upset Burley 12-6 at the district tournament in 2010.
But Wood River had righthander Finn Isaacson on the hill for Monday’s first game, and Isaacson has come into his own this summer.
Isaacson (9 hits, 4 BB, 6 K) threw 130 pitches over eight innings and kept the Wranglers close with consistent command of his fastball. Facing Burley’s best player, lefty-hitting Jackson Kunz, Isaacson retired Kunz four of five times with off-speed pitches for fly balls.
Seamons said, “Finn has been getting better and better each game. He has built confidence all through summer and now going into districts.”
Isaacson fell behind 3-0 in the fourth, but Wood River got one run back in the home half on leadoff singles by Dylan Broman and Alec Nordsieck (2 hits), an Adrian Rojas sacrifice bunt, and a bouncing ball for an RBI out by Brandon Benson.
Wood River cut its deficit to 3-2 in the home fifth on a two-out single by Brunker (2 hits, 2 runs) and an RBI double by Gunner Gibson. Burley added an insurance run in the seventh after a one-out double by Del-Bosque. A diving catch and put-out by first baseman Rojas prevented further damage.
The Wranglers, down two, stayed alive when second baseman Bryce John walked on five pitches and Isaacson narrowly legged out an infield hit on a 3-2 pitch by Burley closer Jackson Kunz.
Kunz had relieved in the sixth and had retired Wood River 1-2-3. He had been nearly un-hittable in throwing a three-hitter and beating the Wood River high school 7-1 on his last visit to Founders Field April 19.
But Brunker finally solved Kunz with his game-tying triple scoring John and Isaacson.
Wood River nearly won the game in the home eighth with runners on second and third and just one out, but Kunz got a big strikeout on a breaking ball and then threw a come-backer.
Cameron Benson, having caught Isaacson for eight frames, came on in relief in the ninth and held Burley scoreless after a leadoff walk—helped by a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play from shortstop Isaacson, to second baseman John and over to first sacker Rojas.
John opened the home ninth by drawing a walk from Kunz and Isaacson executed one of several successful Wrangler sacrifice bunts during the game. Brunker blooped a single to right field, but it was shallow enough to make John stop at third base instead of scoring.
Gibson attempted a safety squeeze on a very high pitch, and John scampered back to third. Then, Kunz plunked Gibson to load the bases. Broman, the next batter, grounded the ball back to Kunz, who threw to home for the second out. Broman just beat the throw to first on the attempted double play.
So it was bases loaded with two outs and Nordsieck at bat. Kunz’s first offering was low, a passed ball, and Brunker scored the game winner easily.
Coach Seamons said, “Right from the get-go, we put pressure on the defense, more and more as the game went along, and we got key bunts down late in the game. And we caught a break at the end.”
The winning pitcher, Cam Benson, started Monday’s nightcap and allowed only an unearned run in the first—Jackson Kunz cranking a leadoff double and scoring on a sloppy Wrangler relay play. Benson (2 hits, 7 BB, 4 K) threw 79 pitches over four innings.
Nordsieck (43 pitches, 3 innings, 1 hit, 2 BB, 5 K) was just as good. Del-Bosque (2 hits) roped a one-out double in the seventh and scored for a 2-0 Green Sox lead. But Del-Bosque (92 pitches, 11 ground-ball outs, 2 BB, 3 K) was dominant with his slow stuff, was helped by two double plays and got big outs when needed.
Wood River, out-hitting Burley 7-3, had its chances late to sweep the twinbill—leaving eight runners on base, four in scoring position, including the bases loaded trailing 2-1 in the home seventh. Nordsieck (2 hits) and Rojas (double) led the Wrangler hitters.