BOISE — Two years of disappointing finishes and a devastating summer laid the foundation for a dog pile on Saturday.
The Twin Falls High School baseball team erased an early deficit and pulled away for an 8-3 win over Idaho Falls (20-10) Saturday at Bishop Kelly High School. The victory gave the Bruins (27-3) their first 4A state title since 2014, and their third since 2011. This one carried much more emotional heft.
“It was special for them,” Twin coach Tim Stadelmeir said. “These kids, these seniors went through a lot.”
Right before the state tournament began, Twin’s players shaved the number 12 into the back of their hair. The symbol wasn’t reserved for the seniors, nor did it represent them. It represented the player who never reached his senior season.
In July, Terex Hatfield died in a watercraft accident. He was 17 and about a month away from beginning his senior year at Twin Falls High School. He was an outfielder and pitcher for the baseball team. He wore the No. 12.
Terex’s brother, D’Artagnan, wore No. 12 this season for the Bruins. The sophomore was overcome with tears after Saturday’s game. So were most of his teammates.
“He’s in my mind 24/7,” Twin senior third baseman Aaron Brann said Saturday. “Me and him were best friends, and I definitely called him a brother.”
Terex was both in and on the Bruins’ heads on Saturday, and they credited him with Saturday’s win, which didn’t initially look as easy as the final score.
Stadelmeir was happy to be the home team on Saturday, but part of him likes to be the first team to bat, and the first team to deliver a blow. Instead, Idaho Falls did just that on Saturday by scoring two runs in the top of the first inning.
The first inning damage could have been worse, too. With two outs and runners on first and second base, I.F.’s Jackson Madsen hit a single. The runner at second ran through a stop sign at third base, got caught in a rundown and was tagged out to end the inning.
“I definitely got scared,” Brann said. “They came at us quick, which, I give them props. They swung the bat really well.”
The Tigers looked primed to increase the lead in the top of the second, when Braxton Ball hit a leadoff single. With one out, Hunter Leavitt lined a ball into the left field gap. It looked destined for extra bases and possibly a run. Instead, senior center fielder Chase Hagl fully extended for a diving catch.
The next batter hit a low liner into short center field. Once again, Hagl dove and made a diving catch.
Hagl said those were his first two diving catches of the season. Perhaps he was aided by an angel in the outfield.
“(Terex) could make them plays, too,” Hagl said.
Baseball is full of peaks and valleys. The teams that win, Stadelmeir said, are the ones that react well to the valleys. The Bruins showed they belonged in that group on Saturday.
Twin senior shortstop Ryan Nolan led off the bottom of the third inning with the double. Two batters later, he scored on a throwing error by the third baseman. Brann came up next and tied the game with a triple, and he scored on a Skylar Holcomb sacrifice fly.
The lead was Twin’s for good.
The Bruins scored two more runs in the fourth to take a 5-2 lead. I.F. cut it to 5-3 in the top of the sixth, but Twin responded with three in the bottom half.
“To win this tournament, you have to hit,” Stadelmeir said. “We hit.”
The Bruins also received strong starting pitching performances in their three state games, as their 25-7 run differential indicated. On Saturday, senior Ryan Eller became the first Twin pitcher of the tournament to throw a complete game, despite the rocky start.
“The nerves threw me off the first inning. I had a lot of adrenaline,” Eller said. “After that first inning, it went away, and I started focusing in.”
Multiple seniors played for the 2014 team that beat Lakeland 4-1 for the 4A title. Brann was one of them, and he said Saturday’s win felt a little more gratifying than his first. Twin followed up the 2014 win with a loss to Blackfoot in the 2015 title game and a loss to Middleton in the 2016 semifinals.
“Freshman year when we won, it almost made it seem easier than it really was,” Brann said. “The next year, we end up losing, and I was like, ‘Ok, this is a little hard.’ Next year, we lose in the second round, and I was like, ‘Alright, we need to change something up.’”
For the Twin baseball program, no win could negate Terex’s loss. Saturday provided a small dosing of healing, and the game served as a remembrance. And the odes weren’t limited to the 12s on the back of their heads.
“We won this for Terex,” Eller said.
Twin Falls 8, Idaho Falls 3
Idaho Falls; 2; 0; 0; 0; 0; 1; 0; — 3; 7; 3
Twin Falls; 0; 0; 3; 2; 0; 3; X; — 8: 10; 2
Idaho Falls: Pitching — Cannon Thompson (L) 5 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K; Derek Hurst 1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K.
Leading hitters — Kaden Wyatt 1-3, 2B, RBI; Jace Jones 1-3, BB, RBI, R; Andrew Gregersen 1-3, BB.
Twin Falls: Pitching — Ryan Eller (W) 7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 5 K.
Leading hitters — Aaron Brann 2-4, 2B, 3B, SB, 2 RBI, 2 R; Tanner VanOstran 2-4, 2B, RBI, R; Ryan Nolan, 1-2, 2B, RBI, 2 R; Skylar Holcomb 1-3, 2B, 3 RBI; Eller 1-2, BB.