Capital shuts down Eagle to win 5A baseball state championship

The Eagles win the 5A baseball title by beating the Mustangs on the fifth try.

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comMay 18, 2014 

The Capital High baseball team knew whom it wanted to play for the 5A state championship.

The Eagles got exactly what they hoped for Saturday night.

Behind a complete game from junior left-hander Colbi Paul and one big inning, Capital defeated conference rival Eagle 7-1 to win the state championship. It was Capital's first victory against Eagle in five games this season.

"We wanted the opportunity to play those guys just one more time," Capital coach Jerry Hollow said. "They beat us four times. We'll take this one."

Eagle (21-6) beat Capital (19-6) twice in the regular season and swept the best-of-three district championship series, but couldn't win the final game of the year.

"Only in Idaho do you got to beat a team five times in a row to determine who the best team is," Eagle coach Frank Wright said. "Those games are irrelevant quite honestly. This is the one that counted, and they had a better game than we did."

Paul controlled the Eagle offense all night, mixing off-speed pitches and commanding the strike zone. Paul, who pitched two innings and earned the win in Thursday's tournament opener, allowed six hits Saturday night. Eagle was 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

"When we thought maybe we should make a change in there, we kept checking with him and he said no. He wanted it. He answered it. He wanted it bad," Hollow said. "He knows how to pitch, and he's a competitor. That's what makes him special. He loves it. He thrives on the competition."

Paul admitted to some nerves in the early going, but he kept his cool throughout. As he approached the mound before the top of the seventh, Paul pounded his glove in excitement. Then he set the Mustangs down in order.

"We wanted some revenge on them," he said. "It feels really good to beat them."

Capital, which also lost to Eagle in the 2011 state title game, squandered a two-on, no-out situation in the first inning with over-aggressive base running leading to outs. But in the third inning, the Eagles did their damage, scoring seven runs by stringing together timely singles and taking advantage of two Eagle errors.

In the inning, senior Garret Pearson had a two-run single, senior Alex Cloninger had two hits, a run scored and an RBI, senior Sam Wong delivered an RBI single and junior Conner Poulson added an RBI. Capital sent 12 batters to the plate.

"One of our big goals is a big inning," said Cloninger, who went 6-for-8 in the three-day tournament. "That was huge for us."

The big inning took away Eagle's small-ball approach and allowed Paul some breathing room.

When the final out was made, Capital's players tossed their gloves high in the air and dog-piled on the third-base side of the pitcher's mound. After hugs with each other and handshakes with the Eagle team, the players sprinted to left field for pictures in front of the Memorial Stadium scoreboard.

It was Capital's first state title since 2009 and the seventh straight crown for the SIC. Four players - Poulson, senior Blake Dittman, junior Branic Bailey and freshman Hodges Bailey - also were members of Capital's undefeated state champion basketball team.

"I'm proud of the way we battled. I'm proud of the way we bounced back," Hollow said. "It was nice to have an opportunity to get one more shot at them."

Brian Murphy: 377-6444; Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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