Rocky Mountain reliever shuts down rally to clinch district title
Sweeps are nothing new for the Rocky Mountain High baseball team.
The Grizzlies swept the regular season, district and state tournament titles last season. They repeated as the 5A SIC champ last week, then capped a sweep of the district championship series Tuesday with a 5-4 win at Mountain View.
That gives the Grizzlies a chance to make it 6-for-6 on championships the past two years at the 5A state tournament next week, the one title Rocky Mountain has trained its eyes on all season.
“It’s always nice to win a district championship, but it doesn’t mean anything,” Rocky Mountain junior catcher Kaden Hollow said. “It’s nice to hold the banner up, but the work is not done yet. We’ve got seven days before the state tournament starts, so we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Rocky Mountain will open the 5A state tournament at 4:30 p.m. May 17 at Borah High against the winner of Saturday’s state play-in game. Mountain View (20-6) faces the Eastern Idaho champion, either Bonneville or Highland, at 1 p.m. May 17.
Both teams clinched their state tournament berths by finishing in the top two of the 5A SIC standings.
Rocky Mountain cruised to a 16-6, six-inning win over Mountain View in Game 1 of the district championship series Monday, racking up 13 hits to invoke the mercy rule.
The Grizzlies didn’t waste much time at the plate Tuesday, either. Nine-hole hitter Nick Romano blasted a two-run home run in the top of the second, and Gabe Hughes ripped a two-run double later in the inning to give Rocky Mountain a 4-0 lead.
Hughes then crushed a hanging curveball in the fifth over the center-field fence, a run that proved to be the difference.
Rocky Mountain pitcher Matt Hansen carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Mountain View strung together a rally. Aided by three errors, the Mavericks scored four runs off Hansen before senior reliever Riley Secord extinguished the comeback with back-to-back strikeouts.
Secord stepped into the bullpen only a week ago when Ryan Franklin went down with an injury.
“I think that’s only his third or fourth appearance all year,” Rocky Mountain coach Joe Santa Maria said. “... He’s as cool as a cucumber, comes in and throws strikes and gets the job done.
"We didn’t really need him until some injuries. We probably should have been using him more.”
Rocky Mountain enters the state tournament with ace pitcher Ethan Christianson, the reigning state player of the year, as a question mark as he battles elbow soreness. He hasn’t taken the mound since an April 11 loss to Borah. But the Grizzlies know that even without him, they carry the favorite status again. And that’s just the way they like it.
“That level of competition that it brings, it always makes us better,” Hughes said. “At the end of the day, we’re looking to play the best teams and we’re looking to hit off the best pitchers because that’s what makes us better.”