Pitchers key in 4A baseball state tournament

ccripe@idahostatesman.comMay 15, 2014 

There's a familiar theme to the state tournament that begins Thursday at Rodeo Park in Nampa.

Star pitchers abound.

And District Three's top two programs — champion Skyview and runner-up Bishop Kelly — will face several capable challengers from other parts of the state.

Bishop Kelly, which won the Southern Idaho Conference regular-season title but lost the district final to Skyview, opens against defending champion Bonneville at 1 p.m. The Bees (16-5) beat the Knights (20-5) in the semifinals last year and the Hawks in the championship game.

Bishop Kelly coach Bobby Sutcliffe expects Bonneville to use Oregon-bound pitcher Kohl Hostert in the opener. The Bees also boast pitcher/shortstop Lincoln Clayton, the best player in the tournament, Sutcliffe said.

"We've really went with the mindset that we might have to play them anyway, so why not first?" Sutcliffe said.

The Knights feature 13 seniors. Many have played since they were freshmen and have finished second at state twice but haven't won.

Junior Tyler Oldenberg will start on the mound. The Knights also have Utah-bound senior infielder/pitcher Bowen Ogata available.

Sutcliffe is counting on the experience of players like Ogata to guide the Knights through a stressful week.

"I'm just putting it in the hands of my seniors," Sutcliffe said. "They probably have more postseason experience than any team in the tournament. I believe I've done everything I possibly can as a coach. Now it's up to them - if they want it, they're going to have to go get it."

The top half of the bracket also includes Twin Falls, which beat Bishop Kelly in the final in 2011, and Columbia.

Skyview (20-5) opens against 2012 champion Pocatello (14-11) in the 7 p.m. game. The Hawks will throw ace lefty Sage Diehm, a junior committed to North Carolina, in the first game. Coach Ryan Bobo does not plan to start him on the mound again in the tournament unless Diehm has a light workload.

"Kids that have that ability, that are that good, they're going to have a future," Bobo said. "I'm not willing to (risk) an injury or their future for my short-term benefit."

The Hawks are 3-0 against Columbia, 1-2 against Bishop Kelly and 1-0 against Bonneville this season.

They graduated 10 seniors off last year's team and returned just four varsity players but are in position to make a run at the school's first baseball championship.

"This was a completely different makeup," Bobo said. "For them to come together and have the year they've had has been really nice."

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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