Eagle baseball one victory away from district title

The Mustangs top Capital 2-1, can close out the 5A District Three baseball championship series at home Tuesday.

rroberts@idahostatesman.comMay 4, 2014 

Closer J.T. Williams, a Washington signee, earned the save, but not without a little drama. He walked the first batter he faced before striking out the next two for the final outs of the game.

RACHEL ROBERTS — rroberts@idahostatesman.com

Eagle closer J.T. Williams was the first to admit he made his situation a tad more difficult than it had to be Saturday afternoon.

The senior replaced starting pitcher Nathan Lainhart in the bottom of the seventh inning with his team clinging to a one-run lead with one out and the tying run on second base.

Williams' first four pitches resulted in a walk of Capital designated hitter Alex Cloninger.


"I always seem to make it more nerve-racking for myself by walking two or three guys, so that kind of sucks," Williams said. "But it is fun. I like it. I try to embrace that position."

Williams averted disaster, striking out Capital's next two batters to preserve a 2-1 victory in the first game of a best-of-three 5A District Three baseball championship series at Capital High.

Lainhart, a senior righty, earned the win, pitching 6 1/3 innings while giving up just two hits and one run. Williams, who starts at shortstop and has signed with Washington, picked up his fifth save of the season and has given up just one hit and no earned runs in 12 innings as closer.

"It's great to win at their stadium and be going home with a chance to win the second game and win the district championship," Eagle coach Frank Wright said. "I thought it was a well-played game. Nobody gave anything away. The runs were hard to come by."

Game 2 moves to Eagle High at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Both teams are already assured spots in the state tournament, but the winner of the series gets the district's No. 1 seed and a first-round matchup against the District Five-Six runner-up. The loser opens against the District One-Two champion.

Lainhart threw three hitless innings with the help of a solid curveball and changeup, and his teammates plated their first run of the game in the fourth inning on an RBI single to left field by catcher Gavin Speegle, scoring center fielder Kam Lane, who reached on a double.

The Mustangs (18-5) extended their lead to 2-0 with Williams' sac fly to right field, which scored right fielder Cody Aden in the fifth inning.

"Nate pitched one heck of a game, and when your pitcher only gives up one run, it gives you a good chance to win against a good ballclub like Capital," said Lane, who finished 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles. "I think we just executed bunts when we needed to, did the little things right and had some big hits."

Capital's bats remained quiet - save for a single by Sam Wong in the fourth - until junior Brad Jekich led off the bottom of the sixth with a triple. Center fielder Conner Poulson followed with a sacrifice fly to left field to bring the Eagles within 2-1.

Junior Colbi Paul relieved Capital starter Garret Pearson in the top of the seventh, retiring the side.

Catcher Landon Peterson reached on an error to start Capital's half of the inning, and Pearson moved Peterson to second with a sacrifice bunt.

That's when Wright brought in Williams, who closed out the game, albeit with a little more drama than either would have liked.

Rachel Roberts: 377-6422, Twitter: @IDS_VarsityX

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