A month into the season, the Eagle and Mountain View baseball teams were left for dead.
The Mavericks lost eight of nine at one point. And Eagle, picked second in a preseason coaches’ poll, muddled around .500.
But both entered the 5A District Three Tournament as two of the hottest teams in the Southern Idaho Conference. And both continued their runs Tuesday at Eagle High, punching their tickets to next week’s state tournament at Memorial Stadium in Boise and to a district championship game at 7 p.m. Thursday at Eagle.
Mountain View (14-13) is searching for its first district championship in program history; Eagle (18-7) its third.
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EAGLE 9, ROCKY MOUNTAIN 1
Senior ace Eli Shubert put the Mustangs on his back again, firing his seventh straight complete game to lift Eagle into the state tournament.
The lanky right-hander who’s been clocked as high as 92 mph this season kept the Grizzlies in check all evening, striking out 12 while scattering two walks and five hits despite complaining he didn’t have his best stuff.
“I’ve seen him with better stuff,” Eagle coach Frank Wright said. “But most pitchers, major league pitchers, will tell you they have their best stuff one day out of five. The other times they get by. He’s to that point.”
The only trouble the Lower Columbia College (Longview, Wash.) signee got into came in the fourth inning, when he plunked the leadoff batter, then walked the next batter on four pitches.
Shubert said he flashed back to Eagle’s last meeting with Rocky Mountain, when it lead 7-1 in the fifth, he left the mound and Rocky Mountain rallied for the win.
He gave up his only run in the frame Tuesday, then shut the door the rest of the way, working out of a pair of bases-loaded jams to give Eagle its 12th win in 13 games.
“I try to not let it affect me,” Shubert said. “I just go out there and pitch and throw strikes, give them my best stuff whether the bases are loaded or not.”
MOUNTAIN VIEW 5, MERIDIAN 1
The Mavericks continued their late-season run, qualifying for the state tournament for the fourth time in six years and winning their ninth game in their last 11.
“We’ve hit a lot of adversity,” Mountain View coach Matt Rasmussen said of his team’s early struggles. “We’ve had some injuries. We’ve had some lows.
“But the kids, to their credit, they didn’t quit. They kept coming to work everyday, and we kept talking about it’s all about how you play in May.”
A day after Nick Flesher carried the Mavericks with a complete-game, 10-strikeout performance in the first round at district, junior Brendan Boily delivered another gem to propel Mountain View into the state tournament.
Boily held Meridian to one run on three hits while striking out six through 6 1/3 innings. Caleb Nielebeck closed out the win, recording the final two outs with the bases loaded to kill Meridian’s final rally.
Mountain View struggled offensively to start Tuesday, failing to get a ball out of the infield before the fourth inning. But James Lamb reached out and poked a single through the right side in the fourth, breaking open a two-run inning.
No. 9 hitter Jon Milner followed in the fifth with a two-run single just inside the third-base line for a 5-1 lead.
“We’ve had our ups and downs all season,” Boily said. “But we’re finally coming together as a ball team and finishing strong and punching our ticket. It feels great.”
Ten Treasure Valley teams have qualified for next week’s state tournaments:
▪ 5A: Eagle (18-7), Mountain View (14-13)
▪ 4A: Bishop Kelly (15-9), Kuna (12-13)
▪ 3A: Fruitland, Homedale (16-5)
▪ 2A: Melba (12-7), Nampa Christian (21-3)
▪ 1A: Horseshoe Bend (6-5), Wilder (6-8)