Two generations, going on three, have experienced summer’s timeless take on the national pastime in Hailey.
Always the same is the sound that sweetens warm July mornings. It is the crack of the bat on the ball and the cheering of spectators that follows it. It goes with coffee just fine.
The 41st annual Ray Nelson Invitational youth baseball tournament returned to six Hailey diamonds last weekend—giving the new generation a chance to sample what previous boys and families still treasure about the July meet.
Matt Douthit was this year’s tournament director for the Wood River Baseball and Softball Association. He recruited a strong group of volunteers to keep the tradition alive.
First-place hardware went to visiting teams from Nampa, Meridian and Rupert at the Nelson Invitational Thursday through Saturday, July 11-13 for 25 teams in three divisions.
Nampa won the 15-U Babe Ruth title with an 11-1 run-rule victory over defending champ East Boise Saturday at Founders Field. In third place was Wood River (3-2 over 2 days).
The Hailey 15-U squad was one of four WRBSA teams at the Nelson, where they played 53 games over three days.
Winning the six-team 12-U tournament was Minico Swagger from Rupert 12-5 over the Meridian Maniacs. Wood River’s U-12 “A” entry won two of four games to place fourth.
The Meridian 10-U All-Stars swept through the younger age tournament with four wins, outscoring opponents 53-13 including its 15-1 victory over cross-town Meridian Maulers in the championship game of the 11-team 10-U tournament.
Wood River’s U-10 entry captured one win in four games. Consolation bracket winner was Northside Orange 20-11 over the Mini-Cassia Mayhem from the Rupert-Burley area.
Starting in 1972, the tourney has been named for Hailey baseball booster Ray Nelson, who bequeathed a love of the game to his family and friends before passing away in 1970.
Umpire-in-chief Chris Benson thanked the following hard-working crew of umpires.
Besides Benson, they were Harold Nelson, David Nelson, Matt Nelson, Ken Uhrig, Nickolaus Brunker, Jeff Poggi, Steve Barckholtz, Brad Thompson, Kirk Felger, Greg Townley, Rod Watson, Steve McCoy, Tony Benson, Sarah Benson, Brandon Benson, Cameron Benson, Finn Isaacson, Dylan Broman, Alec Nordsieck, Bryce John and Jason Gerber.
Harold Nelson, one of Ray Nelson’s sons, was a Founders Field workhorse. He umpired behind-the-plate five games Friday and four games Saturday for the older boys. And many other umpires in the Nelson pulled similar weight.
Coach Juan Martinez’s Wood River 15-U boys nearly pulled off a miracle comeback win over the defending champion East Boise team in Saturday’s semi-final at Founders Field. Eventual runner-up East Boise finally won the tournament’s best game 12-8 in nine innings. Earlier in the tournament, East Boise had trounced Wood River 19-5.
Trailing 7-2 in the home sixth, the Hailey squad chipped away with two runs for a 7-4 deficit on one-out singles by Christian Hovey and Brock Mary and a run-scoring single by Kyle Nelson.
Owen Gifford (2 hits) led off the home seventh with a single and stole second. Cade Schott (2 hits) made it 7-5 with an RBI single, and Hovey (2 hits) singled to right. Mary legged out an infield single, then Schott scored on a double steal and pinch-runner Tiernan Naghsh tallied the tying run, 7-7.
East Boise pushed across an unearned run in the eighth off reliever Schott. Wood River was down to its final out in the home eighth when Evan Hesselbacher drew a walk, stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error and scored on a passed ball. Unfortunately for the home team, East Boise scored four times in the ninth for the 12-8 victory.
Wood River U-15’s three wins came over Twin Falls, over Northside 6-0 behind ace pitcher Hovey and the hitting of Zachary Nelson (3 hits, douible), and over Meridian 12-3.
Coach Brian Nelson’s U-12 “A” boys went 2-2 for fourth place including 13-3 and 22-1 wins over Meridian Sliders and Wood River “B.”
Slugger Klayton Douthit slammed a grand slam homer leading the 11-hit “A” attack in the 22-1 victory. James Cantrell also was a top “A” hitter, and Jake Albright had a triple and double in the 8-5 Wood River “B” loss to Burley.