TWIN FALLS — It’s opening weekend in Major League Baseball, but the College of Southern Idaho baseball team has been at work for nearly two months now — and the Golden Eagles are sizzling.
On Saturday, 16th-ranked CSI added a four-game series sweep of No. 12 College of Southern Nevada to its long list of season accomplishments, with 10-3 and 8-7 wins in the Scenic West Athletic Conference doubleheader. Those two wins followed 4-3 and 7-4 wins on Friday.
In the first game of the Saturday doubleheader, the Golden Eagles stranded three runners in the first two innings before breaking out a third-inning rally.
With two outs, seven consecutive CSI batters reached base, beginning with a single by David Hudleson and capped off by a two-run home run by Sean Grandmont, who CSI head coach Boomer Walker said had been cold with his bat this season.
“He’s really been struggling all year and kind of fighting it,” Walker said. “I told him earlier in the week that he’s going to get us some big hits this weekend. You could kind of sense it coming.”
The Golden Eagles walked away from that inning with a 7-2 lead, and with the way Colton Westfall was pitching, the Coyotes had few chances to cut into the lead.
Westfall pitched all seven innings for CSI, allowing six hits. He gave up a solo home run to Jay Desoto after the big CSI rally, but also struck out three of his last six batters.
In the second game, though, it took a good chunk of CSI’s bullpen to keep a win within reach.
Conner Breding got through the first inning with little issue, striking out two CSN batters, but he hit one and walked two to begin the second frame, leading CSI to call in reliever Trent Bixby.
Bixby and Boden Mills split time over the next six innings, allowing only two combined runs. That gave the CSI lineup time to create run support, though it faced Joey O’Brien, CSN’s ace that Walker called “one of the best, if not the best” in the conference.
CSI found a small rally in the fourth inning against O’Brien. After a leadoff single by Hudleson, Colin Gordon brought him home with a triple, and Hayden Leatham plated Gordon with a single. A sacrifice bunt by Brett Resch set up a Nick Dolce fielder’s choice that allowed Leatham to score for a three-run frame.
But none of that excitement lived up to the defensive gem by CSI’s Travis Bohall to start the next inning.
Desoto led off for the Coyotes with a long drive to center. Bohall turned right and sprinted towards the warning track, where he laid out and slid into the dirt with the ball in glove, robbing Desoto of an extra-base hit.
“That was the best catch of my life, probably,” Bohall said.
“This is my 23rd year in junior college baseball,” Walker added, “and that’s the best catch I’ve ever seen.”
The catch was just one highlight of an “unbelievable” weekend defensively, Walker said.
“We made some really good plays all weekend,” he said. “Sean (Grandmont) made some great plays over at third, and our middle infield is as good as it’s ever been.”
But the question marks on the mound showed up again late in the game after Mills was relieved by Brandon Soucy. Soucy walked his first batter and hit the next, and with a 5-4 lead and two baserunners on, CSI went to its bullpen before he could record an out.
The Coyotes only plated one in the eighth, and started off the ninth inning in similar fashion, with Beau Capanna and Desoto earning a walk and single, respectively. Both scored runs before the inning ended, tying the game back up at 7-7.
“We got away from our philosophy of throwing strikes,” Walker said. “We lost the strike zone a little bit in that one.”
However, losing the strike zone eventually led to a walkoff win for the Golden Eagles.
Gordon and Leatham both drew walks against CSN reliever J.D. Brooks to start the inning, and Walker pushed them a base further with a sacrifice bunt. Brooks tried to fill first base by intentionally walking Dolce.
The first pitch made his catcher, Michael Camburn, jump to reach it. The second was right where it should have been.
The third sailed over Camburn’s mitt to the backstop, and Gordon, CSI’s speedy shortstop, slid safely into home plate and threw his helmet down in ecstasy.
Bohall led the way in hits for the series, going 7-for-14, including a 5-for-7 performance on Saturday. Grandmont batted 6-for-12 with two home runs and eight RBIs.
Even with a perfect 4-0 weekend, Walker said good luck was definitely on the side of the Golden Eagles against CSN.
“We got a lot of breaks this weekend, but give our guys credit that we capitalized on a lot of those opportunities,” he said.
The wind improved the Golden Eagles to 29-5 (12-2 in the SWAC), one season after they lost five of their first six games and finished 20-27. Walker said this team is showing the characteristics he wants to see in his recruits.
“(We want) guys that didn’t think that they could be better than what they are and guys that have a chip on their shoulder and something to prove,” he said. “With this team, it seems like there’s a different guy who steps up for us each week.”
Bohall said the success so far is a bit of a surprise.
“No one can believe it, really,” he said. “We’re just having a great time and trying to keep it fun.”
Walker hopes his team is ready to grind out the coming weeks, including its next series at Salt Lake Community College.
“We’ve still got five more weeks,” he said. “I can’t anticipate that we’re going to get breaks for all of these weeks like we have been, but we’re in a good spot right now.”