The day couldn’t have started any worse for Eagle pitcher Reed Harrington and shortstop Kole Lane.
Harrington plunked the leadoff hitter with his first pitch Thursday, fired the second one to the backstop and had a runner at third base after his third pitch.
Lane received nothing but curveballs in his first two at-bats, coming nowhere near any of them and striking out twice on six pitches.
But Harrington rebounded, shutting down Mountain View the rest of the way. And Lane golfed a hanging curveball over the left-field wall in his third at-bat to cap the scoring in an 8-1 win over Mountain View in the 5A District Three Tournament championship at Eagle High.
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“The game is all about failure. It really is,” Eagle coach Frank Wright said. “And how you handle failure is more important than how you handle success.
“Both of those guys did a great job today of taking rough starts and — kind of like our ball club — turning it around and having a very good result.”
Harrington’s and Lane’s resurgence mirrors the comeback Eagle (19-7) has made this season. Picked second in the 5A SIC preseason coaches’ poll, the Mustangs stumbled to a 4-5 start.
But Eagle’s second district title in three years, and third in program history, sends it to next week’s state tournament as winners of 13 of its last 14 games. Its only loss came in a nonconference game against Timberline the final week of the regular season.
Eagle faces Meridian (16-12), District Three’s fourth-place team, in the first round of the 5A state tournament at 7:15 p.m. Thursday at Boise’s Memorial Stadium. Mountain View (14-14), which already secured its state berth before Thursday, takes on eastern Idaho’s yet-to-be-determined second-place team at 10 a.m.
“It feels good,” Lane said of the district title. “It’s just a steppingstone though. We’re looking for that state title now.”
Short on pitching at the end of the district tournament, Wright admitted he only planned to use Harrington for three innings — at most. Eagle’s closer hadn’t started a game all season before Thursday.
But after command issues in the first inning, Harrington settled in and blew up Wright’s plan. He retired 14-of-15 batters at one point and finished the complete game allowing one run (zero earned) on two hits with five strikeouts on 70 pitches.
“Reed just kept rolling, and his pitch count was so low,” Wright said. “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.”
Harrington’s performance gives the Mustangs a wealth of pitching heading into the state tournament, where Eagle will need to win three games in three days to hang its third state championship banner. Ace Eli Shubert has thrown seven straight complete games, all wins. And Max Nichols gives Eagle a solid No. 2 option.
“It was a little rough at the beginning of the year,” Harrington said. “But we’ve figured things out, and we have a lot of potential. I’m excited to see where things go for the rest of the year.”