RUPERT – Before the Minico High School baseball team could think about beating Twin Falls, it needed a lead.
For a second, a lead in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader looked likely. Then Ryan Nolan snatched those hopes away.
Minico catcher Drake Miller came to the plate in the bottom of the first inning with runners on first and second and one out. He bounced a ball up the middle that seemed destined to score Nicky Caldera. Instead, Nolan made a diving snag at shortstop to start an inning-ending double play.
“It takes your breath away a little bit,” Minico coach Jared Price said. “That ball gets through, we score a run in the first, and it could be a totally different ballgame.”
The game was scoreless at that point, and the Spartans wouldn’t score the final six innings. The Bruins prevailed 2-0, and they won the second game 7-4. Twin didn’t trail for a single pitch in its three-game Great Basin Conference sweep.
“This is probably the No. 2 team in the district. Sweeping them in three games is huge for us,” Bruins senior Skylar Holcomb said. “It kinda says, ‘We’re gonna be the No. 1 team, and we’re gonna come for you.’”
Twin’s offense came and went over the weekend, as the 2-0 win indicated. But that’s no issue when the Bruins pitch as well as they did over the past two days.
Holcomb allowed three unearned runs on five hits, a walk and six strikeouts in Twin’s 9-3 home win on Friday. Fellow senior Aaron Brann pitched five scoreless innings (three hits, one walk, three strikeouts) in game two, and Ryan Eller allowed three earned runs (five hits, one walk, four strikeouts) in five innings in game three. The bullpen was also nails.
Of course, few shutdown pitching performances are possible without good defense. Nolan’s diving stop in Saturday’s first game was a perfect example, as was the final play of Saturday’s doubleheader. Second baseman Tanner VanOstran mirrored Nolan’s web gem with a diving stop in the seventh inning. With one out and runners on second and third, VanOstran flipped the ball to Nolan, who turned the series-ending double play.
“Our middle infield, those two kids have played really hard. The good thing is that they’ve been playing all last summer in Legion and stuff,” Twin coach Tim Stadelmeir said. “Those guys got a lot of reps together, and it’s paying off.”
Twin’s offense wasn’t shy, either. Brann went 3-for-4 and Nolan went 2-for-3 in Saturday’s first game, and they drove in the only two runs. In the final game, the Bruins scored three in the first inning and four in the second. Just like Friday, Twin led 7-0 after two innings.
Brann also went 3-for-4 in the final game, while Holcomb went 2-for-3 with a walk and a two-run triple.
Twin swept Minico in the 2016 regular season, as well, and hasn’t lost to the Spartans since 2015.
“You’ve gotta do something special to beat a team like that,” Price said.
The Bruins now hold a 16-2 overall record, and their only losses are to strong Boise-area teams (5A’s Capital and 4A’s Bishop Kelly). Twin’s 9-0 conference record is uncatchable.
Correction: A previous version of this story included an inaccurate overall record for Twin Falls, and it stated that Twin lost to Timberline. Twin beat Timberline.
“They are playing with a little swagger,” Stadelmeir said. “That’s OK. They’ve earned it.”
Minico received a strong start from Alan Ambriz in Saturday’s first game. He pitched all seven innings and allowed two earned runs on seven hits, three walks and six strikeouts. At the plate, the junior went 1-for-4 with three walks on the day.
In the final game, junior Nicky Caldera went 2-for-4 and hit the first home run of his career. The two-run shot cut the deficit to 7-2 in the bottom of the third inning. From that point on, Minico frequently threatened to complete the comeback. Good pitching, good defense and some bad luck prevented it from happening.
“They could’ve easily rolled over,” Stadelmeir said. “They kept battling.”
Twin next plays at Canyon Ridge on Wednesday to start a three-game conference series.
Minico (8-9, 4-5) hosts Wood River on Friday to begin a three-game set.
“We know we can play,” Caldera said. “We just need to get together, get our minds right.”
More Online:See photo gallery of Minico v. Twin Falls baseball at magicvalley.com.
Twin Falls 2, Minico 0 (Game One)
Twin Falls 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 – 2 7 1
Minico 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 – 0 3 0
Twin Falls: Pitching – Aaron Brann (W) 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K Connor Root (S) 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K.
Leading hitters – Brann 3-4, RBI Ryan Nolan 2-3, RBI, R Root 0-1, 2 BB.
Minico: Pitching – Alan Ambriz (L) 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K.
Leading hitters – Ambriz 1-2, BB, SB Ryan Chandler 1-2, BB, SB.
Twin Falls 7, Minico 4 (Game Two)
Twin Falls 3 4 0 0 0 0 0 – 7 11 0
Minico 0 0 3 0 0 1 0 – 4 8 3
Twin Falls: Pitching – Ryan Eller (W) 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K Dayton Harshbarger 1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K Caron Walters (S) 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K.
Leading hitters – Skylar Holcomb 2-3, 3B, BB, 3 RBI, R Aaron Brann 3-4, 2B, RBI, 2 R Chase Hagl 2-3, BB, SB, 2 R Walters 2-3, RBI.
Minico: Pitching – Kobe Matsen (L) 1 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 1 K Kendall Peterson 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K.
Leading hitters – Nicky Caldera 2-4, HR, 2 RBI, R Blaze Dennis 2-2, 2B, HBP Peterson 1-2, HBP, RBI Alan Ambriz 0-2, 2 BB, R Drake Miller 1-4, 2B, RBI Mckay Chandler 1-3, 2B, R.