HS baseball: Pocatello sweeps Blackfoot in momentum-swinging doubleheader
POCATELLO – Pocatello entered a critical weekend against a formidable foe in Blackfoot and came out a winner because of stifling performances by its pitching staff and defense that allowed a single run in two games.
The Indians and Broncos took the field Saturday to resume Friday’s matchup that was halted due to weather in the sixth inning with Pocatello ahead 8-0. The Indians closed out that game to get a 9-0 victory before squeaking out a 3-1 win in game two.
The doubleheader sweep puts Pocatello (13-6, 7-3 4A District 5-6) a half-game away from second-place Blackfoot (11-6, 8-3 4A District 5-6) in the 4A District 5-6 standings and gives the Indians the tiebreaker.
“It’s two huge wins when you’re not feeling your best,” said Pocatello coach Vinnie Benavidez, whose team has been wracked with illnesses this week. “It’s one of our bigger rivalries over the last few years and these games are always fun. And I’m just really proud of the kids.”
The two teams were 4A District 5-6’s representatives in the 2016 state tournament. Pocatello defeated the Broncos in a memorable district title game, erasing a three-run seventh-inning deficit to come out victorious. It forced the Broncos to win the league’s second-place game to seal a state bid.
Idaho Falls has wedged itself into first place after moving down from 5A this year, making district tournament positioning important. There may not be enough room for the conference rivals in this year’s state tournament.
The Indians showed they were ready to wrestle the bid away from Blackfoot this weekend by not giving up an inch. Well, maybe some hits and walks, but the Indians would not let Blackfoot cross home for nearly all of two games.
The Broncos’ lone run of the doubleheader was scored by Pacen Hayes, who had Blackfoot’s first hit of the second game in the fourth inning before rounding the bases to cut his team’s deficit to 2-1. The Broncos left two runners on base in each of the next two frames before suffering a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh, capped by a flyout to centerfielder Jarom Campos.
Blackfoot at least made Poky’s second win hard-earned, not making it easy for Pocatello to score. Broncos pitcher Payson Mills had 11 strikeouts and one walk, while allowing two earned runs and six hits in a complete game. He was at his finest in the second inning when he struck out all three batters.
“Mills was fantastic on the mound,” Blackfoot coach Liam Pope said of the first-year varsity player. “He was just hitting his spots. He was in control of his off-speed. Everything he did, he was 100 percent in control of it. And he was confident today.”
The first run Mills allowed was to the first batter he faced, leadoff hitter Trent Cooper, who reached base on a double in the first inning before making it home on Quinton Standley’s RBI double. Standley created enough breathing room in the third inning, scoring to give Poky a 2-0 lead with the assistance of two wild pitches and a passed ball en route to home.
While Poky is on Blackfoot’s heels in the league standings, Pope said he is not worried about his team being left out of state. So far this season, what he has seen is fighters.
“They’ve proved that they can battle,” Pope said. “We don’t stay down. We get back up off the floor and go again. I think we did today. The scoreline wasn’t really what we would’ve loved, but it wasn’t because we played bad baseball.”