The 4A Southern Idaho Conference has a new flavor this season with the return of Vallivue and Emmett to the league.
Their addition, plus the exit of reigning district champion Kuna to 5A, throws open the conference race. The league’s blue bloods — Skyview and Bishop Kelly — remain formidable, but the depth of the conference proves anyone can rise up.
Below, we pick the top teams and players to watch this spring.
After winning three straight district titles, Skyview missed the state tournament last year for the first time since 2010. But the Hawks bring back five starters and boast an eight-arm deep pitching staff, the league’s deepest. Cody Balle and Jayson Hibbard lead the rotation as its dual aces and are backed up by a fast and sound defense behind them. For Skyview to return to the top of the conference, it’ll have come up with the timely hits it couldn’t find last season.
The Vikings made a surprise run to last year’s state title, starting the season 0-7 before finishing third at district and ending the year as state champions at 15-14. Middleton returns eight starters from its Cinderella run, so it can’t be considered an underdog anymore. Juniors Darin Post and Hayden Smith lead the rotation, and Middleton adds Trevor Lara into the mix after a knee injury kept him off the mound last year. The top-level arms make the Vikings a threat to mount another run.
THE DARK HORSES
The Knights were set to return two first-team all-conference pitchers. But a car accident knocked Nate Harrison out for the year and sophomore Matt Farrow isn’t playing this spring, leaving Josh Hess, DJ Clairborne and Kyle Adams to step up. Light on power, BK will continue to focus on its small-ball tactics to try to manufacture its way to runs and victories for the second year in a row.
The Falcons return to the 4A level for the first time since 2007 with the opening of Ridgevue, which pulled away two returning starters. A dynamic offensive team at the 5A level, Vallivue should continue to rake at the 4A level. The concern comes on the mound, where fewer than 10 varsity innings of experience returns. If the young rotation keeps Vallivue in games, the Falcons can make some noise.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
JOSH VAUGHAN, BISHOP KELLY
The senior shortstop can execute all the little things in BK’s small-ball offense. He’s also capable of plenty of damage when he swings away.
DARIN POST, MIDDLETON
The junior returns from a second-team all-conference season that included throwing a four-hit shutout in the state semifinals.
CODY BALLE, SKYVIEW
A reigning first-team all-conference pitcher, the senior can rack up the strikeouts with a swing-and-miss slider.
JAYSON HIBBARD, SKYVIEW
The junior pitcher will pound the bottom half of the strike zone for the Hawks and produce ground ball after ground ball.
GABE CHILDS, VALLIVUE
The Falcons’ junior shortstop and team leader hit .385 last season to earn second-team all-conference honors in the 5A SIC.
4A SIC coaches’ poll
1. Skyview (3)
2. Bishop Kelly (2)
3. Middleton (2)
8. Mountain Home
Notes: First-place votes in parentheses. One coach did not vote.