MONTPELIER - For the first time in fifteen years, the Snake River Panther baseball team has claimed the District 5 crown and advanced to the Idaho State Championships next week.
Riding the right arm of pitcher Shane Parkinson and the pinch hitting of Travis Robertson and Cash Cardona, the Panthers downed tournament host Bear Lake 3-2 in eight innings to claim the title.
We got a huge effort from Shane today," said Coach James Carter. "We just have some great kids who did just a phenomenal job today to get the win."
Parkinson pitched all eight innings, working his way out of trouble on several occasions.
"I was trying to pitch with confidence today," said junior hurler Shane Parkinson. "I know that I have a great defense behind me and I just need to keep the ball in play and let them make the plays behind me."
Parkinson sailed through the first four innings, including working out of a bases loaded jam in third.
"Shane really gave us a lift today, throwing key strikes when he needed to," said Coach Carter. "I can't say enough about the defense behind him either. Keller made some great scoops at first and made them look just routine and Cody Dean at third played absolutely great."
The Panthers manufactured a run in each of the second and third innings.
In the second, Snake River used singles by Cole Rushton and Keegan Keller and a fielding miscue by Bear Lake to score the game's first run.
Coming right back in the third, leadoff hitter Braden Watt reached base on an infield single, stole second and came home on a two out single by Rushton to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
That lead held until the top of the fifth inning when Bear Lake coaxed a walk out of Parkinson and sent their best hitter to the plate in Tyrell Anderson.
"We had talked about not letting the Anderson kid beat us today," said Coach Carter. "We had intended to pitch around him but we went after him instead."
Parkinson delivered a pitch to Anderson who promptly drove the ball over the center field fence for a two run homer that tied the score at 2.
"I knew not to give him anything up in the strike zone," said Parkinson. "I threw a curve ball and hung it a bit and he made me pay for it."
Zeroes on the score board ensued for both teams through the seventh, sending the game to extra innings.
Parkinson continued his strong performance, keeping the Bears off the board despite a hit batter in the top of the eighth, giving the Panthers their chance in the bottom of the inning.
After a lead off strike out, Jesse Vogler stroked a single and the Panthers had a runner on base. Coach Carter then went to his talented bench in pinch hitter Travis Robertson. Robertson laced a single into left center putting runners on first and second with only one out and Carter called for another pinch hitter in Cash Cardona.
"I was a little nervous, but kept telling myself to concentrate and have confidence in myself," said Cardona. "I had two strikes on me and knew a curve ball was coming and I just tried to meet the ball. Unbelievable feeling to watch Vogler cross the plate with the winning run."
Snake River hoisted the championship trophy and earned a berth in the state championship tournament next week in Ontario, Oregon on the campus of Treasure Valley Community College. Their first round opponent will likely be Kimberly.
SNAKE RIVER 3, BEAR LAKE 2 (8 innings)
BLHS 000 020 00 - 2 3 2
SRHS 011 000 01- 3 9 1
Shane Parkinson 8IP 3H 2R 2ER 8K 6BB
Cole Rushton 2-3, Keegan Keller 1-3, Braden Watt 1-3, Wyatt Wray 1-2, Travis Robertson 1-1, Jesse Vogler 1-3, Shane Parkinson 1-3