By MARK HIGH
FRUITLAND – The Snake River Panthers erupted for 10 runs over the fourth and fifth innings to avenge last season’s Class 3A semifinal loss to the Kimberly Bulldogs by dispatching them 10-0 in five innings on Friday.
“It was nice and somewhat important to end the game in five innings to save some of our pitching but more importantly, the bottom of our lineup did a great job of getting key hits,” Snake River coach Rich Dunn said. “The difference in the game today was they [Kimberly] made some mistakes to put runners in scoring position and the bottom of our lineup went middle away which is something that every baseball team talks about from day one.”
Indeed, mistakes proved fatal for the Bulldogs as the Panthers took advantage of each and every one of the Bulldogs' five errors. Nate Martin led off the fourth inning on one of those fielding miscues and then stole second moments later. After a pair of outs, it looked as if Martin was going to be left stranded on second but a Cole Rushton's big two-out single scored Martin for the 1-0 lead. Cole Hrabik was safe on a missed to extend the inning. A booted ball at third base loaded the bases.
Adrian Castaneda then cleared them with a single that was misplayed by the centerfielder, allowing Castaneda to advance to third base. He scored the Panthers' fifth run of the game on a passed ball.
All totalled, a pair of hits and four errors led to the uprising and the 5-0 lead.
Kimberly tried to mount a comeback in the top of the fifth, eventually loading the bases against starting pitcher Cash Cardona. Cardona settled down however, striking out two of the last three batters he faced to escape without allowing a run.
“Cash is a senior. He’s been in this game before and I don’t think that he was going to let anybody or anything get in his way today,” Dunn said. “He wasn’t overpowering but he kept them honest with all three of his pitches. He even threw a knuck in there for a strike.”
The Panthers put the final nail in the coffin with five runs in the bottom of the fifth as Kade Harrall and Wyatt Wray each were plunked by a pitch and Martin reached via the fifth Bulldog error of the game. A walk to Trey Albertson and Rushton's 2-RBI single and Hrabik's 2-RBI ended the game on the 10-run mercy rule.
“Kimberly was wound up pretty tight before the game. Lots of talking going on and we talked about it as a team before the game that if we could jump on them early that it would be tough for them to keep that energy up,” Dunn said. “When we scored those runs on them, you could just see the wheels fall off of them.”
Snake River will now play for its first state baseball championship today whenthe Panthers face off against the defending state champion Fruitland Grizzlies. The game will be on the Grizzlies home field with first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m.
“It has been a good year for me. First time in school history for girls basketball. First time in school history for baseball and hopefully Lady Luck will be on our side because we are going to need it. Fruitland is the real deal,” Dunn said.
SNAKE RIVER 10, KIMBERLY 0 (5 innings)
Kimberly 000 00 – 0 2 5
Snake River 000 55 – 10 5 0
Kimberly hitters – Carlton 1-2 2B, Courtney 1-2. pitching – Wathen (L) 4+IP 8R 3ER 3H 6K BB 3HP, Petterson 2R 2ER 2H 0K 0BB.
Snake River hitters – Cole Rushton 2-3 2R 3RBI, Cole Hrabik 1-3 2B 2RBI, Adrian Castaneda 2-2 R. pitching – Cash Cardona (W) 5IP 0R 0ER 2H 3K 5BB.