Few programs around the state can match Timberline High’s pedigree. So when the Wolves were picked sixth in the 5A SIC preseason coaches’ poll, it stuck in their craw.
Timberline continued to prove its doubters wrong Friday, shutting down Capital 4-1 in the 5A state baseball semifinals at Borah High to advance to the championship game for the second time in three years.
“We took that and kind of used that as motivation,” Timberline senior pitcher Ayden Callahan said. “We know that’s not us. We have the strongest bond at Timberline. We grew up together, play together, and that’s how we succeed.”
Timberline (21-7) will shoot for the seventh state title in program history at 6 p.m. Saturday at Borah High against the winner of Friday’s Rocky Mountain vs. Bonneville game. Capital (18-8) drops into the third-place game at 2 p.m. Saturday at Capital against the Rocky Mountain-Bonneville loser.
Timberline’s Sebastian Elu and Callahan combined to shut down Capital throughout Friday’s semifinals. Elu started the game and danced in and out of trouble to hold Capital to one run on three hits through 4 ⅓ innings.
Elu gave way to Callahan, Timberline’s ace reliever, in the top of the fifth inning when Capital put runners on first and second base with cleanup hitter Mitch Dean due up.
Dean ripped a line drive up the middle, but Timberline second baseman Layton Wagner knocked it down and flipped the ball to second base to start the inning-ending double play and smother the Eagles’ comeback attempt.
Callahan struck out the side in the sixth inning, then recorded the first two outs in the seventh before Idaho’s new pitch count came into play. With Callahan at 33 pitches, Timberline put Elu back at pitcher. Elu never left the game, making him eligible to return to the mound.
Pulling Callahan before he crossed the 35-pitch threshold leaves him eligible to pitch Saturday. Idaho’s pitch count rule dictates that anyone who throws 36 or more pitches must have one full day of rest.
“It definitely came into play,” Timberline coach Jeff Reifman said. “We got into a tight jam, and we wanted to go with Callahan to get us out of it. He’s been one of our horses for us. He came in and shut it down, and we kind of rolled the dice a little bit not letting him exceed 35 pitches so we can bring him back tomorrow.”
Capital drew first blood in the top of the first inning on Dean’s RBI single. But Timberline answered with Callahan’s RBI single in the bottom half of the inning, took the lead with Jonah Hultberg’s RBI single in the second.
“These guys are just winners,” said Reifman, the Wolves’ first-year coach. “They’ve been in big moments before. No moment is too big for them. It’s just in their blood and in their DNA. They just seemed to have that mindset they know they’re going to get it done in pressure situations.”
TIMBERLINE 4, CAPITAL 1
Capital (18-8) — Hitters: Jordan Godeny-Scott 2-3, Mitch Dean 1-2 (RBI), Coby Roberts 1-1. Pitchers: Ethan Horner (L) 5 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K; David Litzenberger 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K.
Timberline (21-7) — Hitters: Conner Riddle 2-3 (2B), Jonah Hultberg 2-3 (RBI), Tomas Vizgirdas 1-3, Ayden Callahan 1-3 (RBI), Alex McFarland-Smith 1-3, Sebastian Elu 1-3, Matt Stefanic 1-1 (RBI). Pitchers: Elu (W) 4.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K; Callahan 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K; Elu 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K.