Varsity Extra

Rocky Mountain loses opener of the 5A state baseball tournament — and its perfect season

The streak is over.

Hillcrest knocked off undefeated Rocky Mountain 5-3 on Thursday in the first round of the 5A state high school baseball tournament, ending the Grizzlies’ quest for perfection and a state championship.

Earlier in the day, defending champion Capital (15-12) shut out Lake City 4-0 to return to the semifinals, and Timberline (24-4) topped Highland 9-1 to set up an all-Treasure Valley matchup in the 4:30 p.m. semifinal Friday at Memorial Stadium.

Hillcrest (20-10) takes on Lewiston (22-5) at 7:15 p.m. Friday after Lewiston knocked off Meridian 5-2.

HILLCREST 5, ROCKY MOUNTAIN 3

Rocky Mountain remained undefeated after 177 innings entering the 5A state tournament.

After 182 innings, that streak remained intact. But one disastrous inning squashed the Grizzlies’ quest for perfection and a state title.

Hillcrest rallied from a 3-0 deficit with a four-run sixth inning, and after a 1-hour, 17-minute rain and lightning delay, the Knights held on for a stunning upset.

“It’s hard not be nervous hearing 27-0 and everyone telling you they’re a great team,” Hillcrest senior pitcher Klay Cornelison said. “But we were really looking forward to showing what we’re made of and trying to prove ourselves. I thought we did a pretty good job of that tonight.”

Beau Crouch’s single through the right side put Hillcrest on the board against Rocky Mountain ace Ryan Beard in the sixth, and Kyal Erikson’s two-out, two-run, line-drive single to center tied the game.

Beard appeared to end the inning when he struck out Casey Pack swinging in the next at-bat. But the pitch bounced in the dirt, catcher JT Strickler’s throw plunked Pack between the numbers down the first-base line and Billy Brown came around for the go-ahead run.

Rocky Mountain (27-1) rallied after the rain/lightning delay stopped the game in the bottom of the sixth, loading the bases with one out. But Cornelison forced an inning-ending, 1-2-3 double play to himself to escape the jam.

“We’re feeling really good about our chances now, especially after beating a team like that,” Cornelison said. “We’re just really excited to get to the next round, especially because no one thought we could.”

CAPITAL 4, LAKE CITY 0

Capital shortstop Conner Poulson waited all year for a pitch to clobber. He got one Thursday in the third inning.

The slugging senior sat on a hanging, 2-0 curveball and ripped it over the left-field fence at Memorial Stadium for a three-run home run, his first of the season.

“I’ve been really wanting to hit one but not really think about it,” Poulson said. “It was really nice to finally get one, and it was really big for our team, swung the momentum our way and our team really built off of that.”

Lake City pitcher Jordan Ross shut down the Eagles the first two innings. But Nolan Jekich tipped Poulson off and Ross threw him a 2-0 curveball in the second inning.

Teams have pitched around Poulson all year and his patience finally paid off when Ross delivered him the same pitch.

“He’s maybe seeing one or two pitches a game that he can hit that are right there in the zone,” Capital coach Tony Brulotte said. “That’s the hardest part for him, just being patient at the plate.”

Senior left-handed pitcher Colbi Paul, who pitched Capital to a win in last year’s state title game, blanked Lake City (18-11) over seven innings, surrendering six hits and striking out five.

The win pushed Capital into the semifinals for the second year in a row, a surprising feat after the Eagles lost six in a row in April to fall to 6-9. But since then, Capital has won 9-of-12 games and is one win away from the state finals.

TIMBERLINE 9, HIGHLAND 1

Timberline spent all week working on its hitting. And it showed Thursday as the Wolves (24-4) racked up 15 hits to cruise into the state semifinals for the 11th time in 13 years.

Timberline wasted no time, hanging four runs on the scoreboard in the top of the first inning thanks to three Highland errors.

“Getting those four runs in the first just got us relaxed,” Timberline junior pitcher Parker Price said. “It set the whole mood for the whole game. We were relaxed in the dugout, everything was perfect, we were having fun. We got to play loose.”

Price went 4-for-5 with a double and a triple to aid his own cause on the mound, where he tossed five innings of one-hit ball to improve to 12-2. The 12th win sets a school record for wins in a season for the youngest of Timberline coach Larry Price’s two sons.

“All these kids are my kids,” Larry Price said. “I’ve been coaching some of these kids since they were 9, 10 years old in all-stars. To tell you the truth, it feels like just another one of my kids on the field. Of course now at home, I’ll take him out for a nice dinner and I’ll buy him a milkshake.”

LEWISTON 5, MERIDIAN 2

Lewiston broke out for four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, breaking a 1-1 tie over the course of seven pitches and qualifying for the semifinals for the first time since 2011.

Senior catcher Jessup Scott highlighted the inning when he jumped on an elevated, first-pitch fastball for a two-run double to center field. A fielder’s choice brought home Michael Murphy. And Tyler Gay dropped a suicide squeeze down the third-base line to score Kolt Olson, Jessup’s courtesy runner.

The outburst was more than enough for Lewiston junior pitcher Dalton Stamper, who held Meridian to two runs (zero earned) on two hits.

“His fastball, he mixed up locations well,” Jessup said. “His offspeed, it wasn’t quite on point, but he used it well and to his advantage.”

  Comments