Crisp defense and clutch pitching helped the Wood River Outlaws win five of their six games and finish second of 12 teams Saturday during the 48th annual Ray Nelson Invitational youth baseball tournament in Hailey.
A big inning and two come-from-behind wins helped a lot.
Saturday, the Outlaws stitched together a 12-run inning sparked by two homers off the big bat of first baseman Sully Carter and rallied past Kimberly Vipers Venom 18-3 in the 12U quarterfinals.
The Outlaws had trailed 3-0 before their bats came alive in the second inning. Yet the hitting was contagious for Wood River to support the pitching of winning hurler Kameron Perron and Ozzie Scherer.
Later Saturday at a jam-packed O’Donnell Field in Bellevue, Wood River faced off against the same Northside State team that had eliminated the Outlaws at a Jerome tournament the previous weekend.
This time, Wood River rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat Northside State 5-2 and earn a championship game berth behind the strong pitching of Jacob Uhrig and Slade Fisher.
“We returned the favor against that Northside team,” said Wood River head coach Donnie Green, whose Outlaws had narrowly lost three games by three runs at the Jerome tournament two weeks ago.
At the annual Hailey meet, however, Wood River celebrated its best finish in five tournaments to date—outscoring opponents 27-8 in three pool-play wins and adding the quarterfinal and semi-final wins over Kimberly and Northside.
The dominant Nampa Rampage, outscoring opponents 94-8 in six victories at the Ray Nelson, finally stopped the Wood River Outlaws charge with a 13-3 victory in Saturday’s 12U championship game at Nelson Field.
In the 10U tournament for 11 teams, Nampa Clutch 10U All-Stars repeated as the Ray Nelson champion with a 5-0 record and 68-13 runs-against over two days. Nampa Clutch defeated the Twin Falls Pioneers 15-6 in the final game.
Last year, the Nampa Clutch 9U All-Stars went 6-0 with a 78-19 runs-against in the Ray Nelson 10U tournament.
But it wasn’t all about winning at the Nelson tourney, which started in 1972 as a continuation of the Wood River Valley Little League Invitational first staged Aug. 23-25, 1957 in Hailey and Ketchum.
Last weekend, the 23 teams in two age divisions played a total of 50 games and scored 814 runs over two days. The weather held out, and everybody enjoyed the action.
Outlaws coach Donnie Green said, “This tournament was a big deal for us because we really wanted to not only play well as a team but we also really wanted to play for this great community and for the entire Nelson family.
“I could not be prouder of each player. We stayed united as a family unit and they all worked hard in all six games. There were no individual efforts it took the entire team pulling together to get us into the championship game and I am very proud of the boys.
“It was also really great to see so many people from the community at the games showing us their support and I know the coaching staff and players appreciated it also.”
Certainly there were plenty of hometown fans pulling for the Outlaws during their Saturday games at South Valley Sports Complex softball field and at O’Donnell Field.
And the Outlaws responded.
Their second inning 12-run explosion on the high school softball diamond started with a Slade Fisher single and a Stokely Gardner sacrifice fly that made the first dent in the early 3-0 Kimberly Vipers lead.
With two outs and two strikes against him, Sully Carter belted a long solo homer making the score 3-2. Alex Golub followed with a single and Kameron Perron doubled. Trace Alley tied it 3-3 with an RBI single as the Outlaws revved their engine.
Luke Hebert drove an RBI single to left giving the Outlaws a 4-3 lead. Ozzie Scherer delivered a two-strike bouncing ball that eluded the Kimberly shortstop and plated two Outlaws. Then, Jacob Uhrig clouted a two-run homer for an 8-3 Wood River cushion.
Wyatt Crego joined the hit parade with a single, Fisher doubled him home and Gardner walked. That brought Carter to the plate once again against a new Kimberly pitcher. Carter homered for the second time in the frame, this one a three-run shot for a 12-3 lead.
The Outlaws added four runs in the home third, the big hits provided by Scherer (RBI double), Easton Turck and Drake Orr with an RBI grounder. And, in the home fourth, Wood River ended the game 18-3 on the 15-run rule with a pair of walks, a Hebert infield single and an outfield error.
Wood River’s semi-final match-up with Jerome‘s Northside State on the Bellevue field later Saturday was an early pitching duel between Uhrig of Wood River and Wes Prestwich of Jerome—two righthanders who had pitched against each other at the Jerome tourney.
Northside scratched out two singles against Uhrig in the second and pushed one run across for a 1-0 lead, with one out and a runner at second.
But Wood River avoided further damage on a slick double play turned by second baseman Alley with a line drive catch and flip to shortstop Scherer to end the threat with a key twin killing.
“That was a big play,” said coach Green.
Two-out singles by Alley and Hebert went for naught in the Outlaws third, but Uhrig retired Northside 1-2-3 with two strikeouts in the home third. Starters Prestwich (6 strikeouts) and Uhrig (5 K) left the game after throwing three innings apiece, Jerome up 1-0.
Jerome’s Anders Sheffield entered as pitcher, whiffed two and stranded one runner. In the Northside fourth, Jerome added a run for a 2-0 lead against new Outlaws pitcher Fisher. Prestwich opened with a single, stole two bases and scored on a throwing error.
Wood River’s four-run rally in the visitor fifth started quietly when Carter was hit by a Sheffield pitch. With one out, Perron ripped a two-strike single to center and stole second—putting runners at second and third. Sheffield threw high trying to pick off Golub at third, and Golub scored the first Outlaws run.
Outlaws catcher Hebert, with two outs, went to the opposite field poking an RBI single over third base for a 2-2 game. Then Scherer followed suit, driving an opposite field single to right that scored Hebert for a 3-2 Outlaws lead.
Scherer advanced to second on an error, went to third on a passed ball and scored on another passed ball with Uhrig at the plate. Wood River’s big inning made the score 4-2.
In the home fifth, Outlaws reliever Fisher enticed a fly ball to Crego in center and struck out two Northside State batters for a 1-2-3 frame.
Wood River added an insurance run for a 5-2 cushion off the third Jerome pitcher in the sixth. Fisher walked on five pitches, stole second and, with two gone, scored on Carter’s two-strike RBI single to right.
Northside State couldn’t score in the home sixth after putting its leadoff batter aboard, as Fisher got a pair of ground balls to Alley and ended the game. Wood River out-hit Northside 8-4, with six different Outlaws getting hits.
Wood River Outlaws, having already played in tournaments at Elko (Nev.), Pocatello, Burley and Jerome, looked forward after their Hailey second-place finish to season-ending tournaments at Salmon, Rupert, Blackfoot and Bear Lake (Montpelier).
Ray Nelson tournament director Greg Carter expressed thanks to the many volunteers and umpires who made the gathering such a success.
Umpires included Kenny Uhrig, Bobby Cuellar, Boone Scherer, Brandon Benson, Cameron Benson, Dylan Broman and Ethan Shoemaker.
Other umpires were Brandon Beall, Hunter Thompson, Dave Weiss, Jason Marden, Jordan Moeller, Steve Anderson and Dillon Mills.
See the June 19 Local Life section for more tourney photos from the Outlaws games.