The Rocky Mountain High baseball team entered the 5A state tournament with two ace pitchers. And through the first two rounds, they’ve lived up to their expectations.
A day after Ethan Christianson struck out nine and held Coeur d’Alene to one run on three hits, sophomore Gabe Hughes one-upped him.
Hughes fanned 14 in a three-hit shutout, carrying Rocky Mountain to a 3-0 win over Bonneville in the 5A state semifinals Friday at Borah High.
“He just located his fastball and his slider,” Rocky Mountain coach Joe Santa Maria said. “All year, that’s been his go to. As a sophomore to be able to have that mental capacity to dominate the zone, it’s pretty impressive.”
The dominant outing lifts Rocky Mountain (21-5) into the state championship game for the first time since 2012, where it will face Timberline (21-7) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Borah High.
Hughes only grew stronger as the game wore on, expanding the zone with his tight slider and striking out nine of the last 14 batters he faced. The Gonzaga commit improved to 6-0 on the season, handing Bonneville pitcher Dalton Virgil his first loss of the season.
“He’s got the stuff to do it, and he had it tonight,” Rocky Mountain catcher Kaden Hollow said. “He brings it day in and day out. It’s pretty special. It’s fun to catch, no doubt.”
The Grizzlies opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning when Ryan Hansen led off with a double and scored on Hollow’s double play ground ball up the middle. Rocky Mountain tacked on two more runs in the fourth on Ty Hollow’s RBI single and Bryson Moorhouse’s sacrifice fly.
Rocky Mountain swept the regular-season series with Timberline on April 12-13 on its way to winning the 5A SIC conference and district championships. But Saturday’s shot at a state title raises the stakes.
“I was in state championships for all-stars throughout the summer, but this is just a different stage,” Hughes said. “It’s just what we’ve all worked for since we were young and playing baseball and Tee-ball. Being on this stage and having a chance to win a state championship, it’s unreal. It hasn’t set in yet.”
ROCKY MTN. 3, BONNEVILLE 0
Bonneville (22-8) — Hitters: Tavyn Lords 1-3, Randon Hostert 1-2, Jordan Perez 1-3. Pitchers: Dalton Virgil (L) 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 5 K.
Rocky Mountain (21-5) — Hitters: Ryan Hansen 1-3 (2B), Kaden Hollow 1-3 (RBI), Kase Ogata 1-2, Nolan Walker 1-3, Ty Hollow 1-3 (RBI). Pitchers: Gabe Hughes (W) 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 14 K.