Capital and Eagle open new postseason baseball format

tphibbs@idahostatesman.comMay 3, 2014 

  • DISTRICT THREECHAMPIONSHIP

    BEST-OF-THREE SERIES

    • Saturday: Eagle at Capital, 1 p.m.

    • Tuesday: Capital at Eagle, 6 p.m.

    • x-Thursday: Eagle at Capital, 6 p.m.

    X-If necessary

— EAGLE — Capital High mowed through the 5A Southern Idaho Conference. The Eagles swept seven of their nine series en route to a 15-3 league record and an outright regular-season title.

Second-place Eagle provided the biggest hiccup with wins against Capital on consecutive nights to open the season. The two programs will play a three-game series beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday at Capital to determine the 5A District Three champion and No. 1 seed for next week’s state tournament in Boise.

Eagle coach Frank Wright understands duplicating the same success against Capital this time around is a tall task.

“It’s really a matter of taking what’s given. I think we’ve been really good at exploiting opportunities,” Wright said. “Capital is very solid. They don’t make a lot of mistakes, so the key is when they do open the door for you — you have to jump through it. Simple as that.”

The luxury for Eagle is confidence. The Mustangs aren’t intimidated by Capital, and believe they can steal Game 1 and home-field advantage.

“I have to say that clearly our kids know they can beat Capital. We’ve done it twice,” Wright said. “They’re a better team than they were then, but so are we. I look forward to a good series. We’re certainly not going into this thinking that we can’t do it — that’s out of the question. We’re thinking we’re more than capable of doing it.”

Capital’s dominance this season is a correlation to its elite pitching and fielding. Colbi Paul (7-0), Sam Wong (5-0) and Garret Pearson (3-1) are a combined 15-1 with an 80-22 strikeout-walk ratio.

The Eagles held their opponents to two or less runs 10 times, including six shutouts — leading to their league-lowest 2.9 runs per game average.

In the opening series, Eagle generated runs with aggressive base running and clutch performances down the stretch, Wright said.

“That’s kind of been the story with us all along,” Wright said. “We’ve gotten big hits and we’ve been a good late-inning club. It’s kind of the way the kids operate. ... It’s been pretty much a collective effort. We’ve won a ballgame eight times in the last at-bat, which is like four seasons worth. All of the kids have functioned in the moment at one time or another.”

The Mustangs also advertise a strong rotation in Griffin Pape and Nate Lainhart along with closer J.T. Williams, who Wright referred to as “our best player.” Pape was 3-1 with a 1.28 ERA and Lainhart was 5-2 with 33 strikeouts.

In this year's new postseason format, both teams have automatically qualified for the state tournament. The remaining eight teams in the 5A SIC will play in a district tournament starting Saturday for the district’s final two spots to state.

Trevor Phibbs: 377-6424; Twitter: @IDS_Phibbs

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