Rain pushed the 5A baseball state semifinals back to Saturday. But Mountain View and Capital didn’t mind the wait as they advanced to the championship game.
Mountain View (26-2) rolled to a 9-2 win over Eagle (17-12), avenging its only loss to an Idaho team this season in the Saturday morning semifinal. Capital (15-16) followed with a 2-0 upset of Rocky Mountain (20-7), setting up a championship match Saturday night.
[Related: 5A to 1A state baseball brackets, scores]
MOUNTAIN VIEW 9, EAGLE 2
Mountain View has checked off firsts all season long. The Mavericks added another one Saturday morning, beating Eagle to advance to the first state championship game in program history.
But they aren’t done yet.
“We all want it really badly,” Mountain View senior pitcher Carson Smith said. “Mountain View has gotten third a bunch of times but has never gotten to the state title game. We want to be that group that does it and gets Mountain View over the edge.”
Smith led the way Saturday morning, shutting down an Eagle team that had won eight in a row, including an April 26 game against the Mavericks. Smith struck out 11 and limited Eagle to two runs on four hits through six innings to earn the win.
“Eagle is hot. They are a really good baseball team and have a physical lineup,” Mountain View coach Matt Rasmussen said. “We thought Carson today was a good matchup for them, being able to throw changeups and offspeed pitches, not trying to go pitch-for-pitch fastball against them.”
The Mavericks spotted Smith three runs in the top of the first thanks to Charlie Tentinger’s RBI single and Alex Nielebeck’s two-run, bases-loaded single. Mountain View added six more runs in the fifth, all unearned, as it took advantage of three Eagle errors in the inning.
Nielebeck led Mountain View’s deep lineup, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Matthew Reynolds also doubled and drove in two runs as the Mavericks showcased their deep and experienced lineup. Mountain View fields 15 seniors, including 10 who have signed to play for a college program next year.
“They are good team guys,” Rasmussen said. “They are not selfish. Someone else is the hero every day.”
CAPITAL 2, ROCKY MOUNTAIN 0
Capital entered the postseason with little expectations after finishing eighth in the 10-team Southern Idaho Conference and losing seven of their last eight regular-season games.
But Capital won four straight elimination games to make it to the state tournament. And the Eagles added to their Cinderella run Saturday.
Senior pitcher Ethan Horner fired a two-hit shutout of perennial power Rocky Mountain, clinching Capital its first state championship game berth since 2014.
“Right now, we’re (6-0) in elimination games,” Horner said. “We are so pumped and so excited. Mountain View is probably scared to play us right now.”
Capital opted to save its ace pitcher for a semifinal matchup with Rocky Mountain, relying on Connor Ferguson and Matt Ruhl to guide the Eagles through an 8-7 win over Highland in the first round.
Capital coach Jake Chandler acknowledged the move was a gamble. But he and the rest of the Capital coaching staff decided they needed Horner to knock off Rocky Mountain and compete for a state title. The Grizzlies had routed Capital twice earlier this season, 14-6 and 16-4.
“The kids make the strategy easy when they play like that,” Chandler said.
Horner mixed his split-finger fastball and slider to keep a potent Rocky Mountain lineup in check. He struck out three and only two Grizzlies reached scoring position as Horner dropped his ERA to 1.34 with the shutout.
“He’s a great kid who’s not afraid to put it all out there,” Chandler said. “He’s definitely one that Capital will look back on. He’s a special player.”
Tanner Leaf broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning with a flare down the right-field line to score Gannon Malloy. A balk from reliever Quinn McGuire pushed across another run in the inning, more than enough cushion for Horner as Capital extended its underdog season.
“We knew we could make a run,” Chandler said. “We just didn’t know it would go this far.”