The Wood River High School baseball team capped a three-game win streak Friday at Burley to finish second in the Great Basin 7 district tournament—and earn the conference’s second bid into the IHSAA 4A state tournament.
The 13-3 win secured the Wolverines’ first state berth since 2008, before the bulk of this year’s senior class even entered kindergarten. Four-year-olds then, Wood River baseball’s class of 2023 will compete in the school’s second-ever 4A tournament.
As of press time Tuesday, seventh-seeded Wood River (16-11) is scheduled play No. 2 Pocatello (17-2) in the tournament’s opening game. That game is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 18, at CSI’s Skip Walker field in Twin Falls. The bracket is subject to change as rankings shift before games begin, Wood River Athletic Director Kevin Stilling said.
The schedule gives Wood River nearly a week of rest after winning three games in three days to make state via the district’s second-chance bracket.
The battery of junior pitcher Holden Blair and senior catcher Clayton Elsbree quieted the Bobcat bats Friday, holding Burley to three runs (2 earned) on just four hits over six innings before the 10-run rule ended the game. Burley totaled 23 runs in two regular-season wins over Wood River earlier this season.
Blair earned the win on the mound and added two hits (1 double) and two RBI at the plate. Elsbree hit 2-4 (3 RBI). Senior Brock Burrell stayed hot, hitting 3-4 (2 RBI, 2 stolen bases). Senior leadoff man Rabbit Buxton scored four runs and stole three bases to set the table.
Wood River heads to state winners of four of their last five. Their lone loss came against Twin Falls, who hold the No. 3 seed at home in state. The Bruins finished conference play undefeated, beating Burley to win the Great Basin 7.
Here’s a look at how Wood River got here following the loss to Twin:
Wolverines fight back to keep season alive
Wood River High School baseball rallied late to walk off Mountain Home for the second time in less than a week on Wednesday, May 10—this time ending the Tigers’ season at Founders Field in Hailey.
Junior third baseman Luke Hebert chased a ground ball into right field to score two runs with one out in the final inning to win it for the Wolverines, 12-11. The RBIs put Wood River two wins away from the Great Basin 7 conference’s second bid to the state tournament.
Hebert’s hit capped a three-run seventh, making up for middle-inning lapse that saw the team squander a fast start and hand the Tigers a 11-9 lead heading into the home team’s last at bat. There, senior Finn Naghsh (3-3, 1 walk, 2 RBI, 3 runs) led off the inning with a line-drive double into left field off of Mountain Home standout Tyler Peterson. Batting next, senior catcher Clayton Elsbree (1-3, 1 walk, 2 RBI, 2 runs) managed to turn a full count into a no-out walk. With the plate set, senior Brock Burrell (2-4, 4 RBI) drove in Naghsh to tie the game, moving Elsbree to second. An Eric Parris sacrifice bunt advanced both runners into scoring position, and forced Peterson to intentionally walk Gabe Nilsen to keep the double play in order. Hebert (3-4, 3 RBIs) took it from there.
The game—a replay of Wood River’s 6-5 walk-off win on May 5—bounces the Tigers from the district tournament. Wood River won three of four games against Mountain Home, all played in Hailey, and all in the past two weeks.
This one seemed on track to end without the drama of last week’s matchup. Wood River jumped out to an early 8-1 lead through two innings keyed by the top of the order. Leading off, senior Rabbit Buxton (2-4, 2 runs) scored twice in the first two innings. Batting second, junior Dawson Speth (3-4, 3 runs, 1 RBI) totaled six bases: a triple, a double and a single.
But Mountain Home charged back. Led by Zander Friberg (5-5, 1 RBI, 3 runs) Petersen (3-3, 2 walks) and Alex Lopez (3-4, 3 RBIs), the Tigers flipped the score. Down 9-3 through four innings, the visitors strung together eight unanswered runs to put themselves on the brink of advancing.
In the end, Wolverines reliever Gabe Nilsen did enough to hold the Tigers, earning the win in three innings of work. Nilsen took the ball from starter Jacob Uhrig, who turned the Mountain Home lineup over multiple times over four innings.
“It was a wild game, and the boys competed, even after having a tough inning and losing the lead,” Coach Brad Thompson said. “Jacob Uhrig threw great for us. Finn Naghsh, Dawson Speth and Luke Hebert had great days at the plate.”
Parris powers Wood River past Minico
Eric Parris’ huge two-way game powered Wood River High School past No. 2 Minico in the Great Basin 7 tournament on Thursday—and put the Wolverines one win away from a state baseball tournament berth.
Parris struck out eight batters on the mound and launched a pair of three-run home runs at the plate to trigger the 10-run rule in the fifth inning, locking up the 16-5 win.
Wood River struck first, scoring five runs in the third inning. They never trailed.
Every starter logged at least one hit for the No. 4 Wolverines—none louder than Parris’ blasts in back-to-back innings. The senior pitcher went 2-3 on the day, driving in six runs. He also threw all five innings, giving up five runs (four earned) and claiming the win.
The win knocked the home-standing Spartans out of the double-elimination district tournament.
“It was a huge day for Wood River Baseball and we have seen massive improvements for this team since we have been able to get on our field and play outside,” Coach Brad Thompson said Thursday night.
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