It was an unusual scenario—meeting for the first time all season in a playoff game without the usual formalities and the testing ground of a three-game series during the regular season of high school baseball.
But that’s the situation that faced the Wood River Wolverines and Burley Bobcats in Tuesday’s first-round game of the 2014 Great Basin Conference baseball tournament at Founders Field in Hailey.
In a wild and wooly two-hour and 40-minute clash featuring 26 hits, 13 errors and seven unearned runs, Burley prevailed 10-8 by holding off a four-run Wolverine seventh-inning rally and securing the final three outs with the bases loaded and the winning run at first base.
No. 4-seeded Wood River (9-11, 5-5 home) dropped into the loser bracket of the double elimination tourney and will host the No. 6-seeded Canyon Ridge Riverhawks Thursday, May 1 at 5 p.m. back at Founders Field. No. 3 Jerome beat Canyon Ridge 9-5 Tuesday.
Wood River won two of three games over Canyon Ridge (2-12 league) this season, by scores of 2-1 and 8-1, while the Riverhawks prevailed 8-5 in Hailey April 10 by holding off a four-run Wood River rally in the seventh—very similar to Tuesday’s Wolverine comeback.
By beating Wood River, coach Devin Kunz’s Burley squad advanced and will travel to top-seeded Twin Falls (13-2 league) on Thursday. Jerome moves on to Rupert for a Thursday encounter against No. 2-seeded defending champion Minico (12-3 league).
At Founders Field on a sunny day, both teams played very hard, but the difference was the nine errors committed by the young and inexperienced Wood River defense that gave Burley five unearned runs.
Last week’s rain-outs and ultimate cancelation of the entire three-game series between Wood River and Burley left the two teams tied with 3-9 conference records and gave the Wolverines the home field because of their tiebreaking victory over the Minico Spartans.
But Burley came to play Tuesday. The Bobcats ran the bases aggressively and demonstrated alert two-strike situational hitting throughout the game putting pressure on the young Hailey defense. Burley scored runs in six of its seven at-bats and left 13 runners on base.
Leading Burley were junior shortstop Mario Del Bosque (4-for-4, 2 doubles, 2 RBI), who reached base all five trips and made several fine plays on defense, and senior lefty pitcher R.J. Nevarez (118 pitches, 6 innings, 5 earned runs, 10 hits, 6 K).
Burley jumped ahead 5-4 after four innings. After yielding a leadoff single to Wood River shortstop Dylan Broman (2 hits) in the home fourth, Nevarez struck out the side and retired eight consecutive Wolverine batters through the sixth.
Wood River senior pitcher Finn Isaacson (121 pitches, 5 earned runs, 12 hits, 3 BB, 3 K) pitched well enough, but infield errors in the early innings made him throw a bunch of extra pitches and kept him battling with runners aboard. Four of the first five Burley runs were unearned.
Burley threatened to add to its 5-3 lead in the fourth.
That’s when Wood River freshman shortstop Cade Schott gave the home team a defensive shot in the arm by gloving three straight well-hit Bobcat grounders and holding Burley scoreless in the frame. Schott had six assists in the final four innings.
Pushing his pitch count, righty Isaacson ran into trouble in the sixth when Burley added three runs for a 9-4 lead. Soph righty Tyler Price relieved him and walked three, but Burley ran itself out of any further damage. Price gave up one more run with two outs in the seventh.
Wood River, after having no luck with Nevarez in the fourth, fifth and sixth, was down to its final three outs and trailing 10-4. But first-year coach Donnie Green’s Wolverines sent the top of its batting order to the plate and they delivered nicely.
Freshman outfielder Owen Gifford (2 hits) stroked a single to right and catcher Cameron Benson (2 runs) ripped a double down the first base line. Third baseman Reide Whitehead (2 hits, 3 runs, 2 RBI) sent Nevarez to the showers with a long two-run double to right center and Isaacson (2 hits) singled to left.
Now operating against Bobcat reliever Hunter Breshears, a senior righty, Wood River pecked away when sophomore Adrian Rojas (RBI double) was hit by a pitch and outfielder Will Long drew a bases-loaded walk for a 10-7 score.
Schott came to the plate and ripped a grounder that Del Bosque momentarily juggled at short, and his throw to second for the force was juggled for an error—scoring another run for a 10-8 game, still no outs with the bases full of Wolverines.
That’s when Burley pitcher Breshears hunkered down to earn the save—getting an infield pop-out, a strikeout and a fly ball to right to keep the Wolverines from winning.
Chipping in on offense for Burley were sophomore Gabe Rebollozo (3 hits, 2 runs), senior second baseman Jalen Ovalle (2 hits, 2 runs) and sophomore catcher Davis Gibbons (2 hits, sacrifice fly).