POCATELLO — One big inning separated the Pocatello Razorbacks and the Malad Dragons at Halliwell Park on Tuesday, and for once, Pocatello was on the right side of it.
The Razorbacks, who gave a game away to Malad on a six-run fifth inning earlier in the year and have been victimized by similar lapses in several of their other losses, put up nine runs in the fifth Tuesday for a 10-5 win in the Single-A Idaho American Legion state tournament.
“It’s great to be on this side of a big inning like that for once,” Pocatello coach Duane Rawlings said. “It was nice.”
The result moved Pocatello to 2-0 in the tournament and dropped Malad into the loser’s bracket, where the Dragons will face Marsh Valley, who beat the Idaho Falls Grizz earlier on Tuesday, in a loser-out game Wednesday.
As befitting a matchup between the two district rivals, things were cagey early.
The teams had played three teams already in the regular season, with Pocatello winning two, and both had aces on the mound in Pocatello’s Brody Burch and Malad’s Grady Combs.
“We play each other a lot, we’re very familiar with each other,” Rawlings said. “Grady is a great pitcher, we know that, and I think they respect Brody as a pitcher. So there was a lot of feeling each other out.”
Pocatello pushed across a run in the third on a walk, a single and an RBI groundout by Deakon Blackhawk, while Burch held Malad to two hits through the first four innings.
The Razorbacks then took some of the pressure off their pitcher with the big fifth inning.
Kobe Holt, Aaron Kearns and Gunnar Trulson hit RBI singles to right field. Two more runs came home on errors before Jett Anderson and Colton Sneddon added RBI hits of their own, and another error and a sac fly by Blackhawk pushed across the eighth and ninth runs of the inning to give Pocatello a 10-0 lead before reliever Tanner Olsen got out of the inning.
“Early on, I thought our approaches at the plate were, we were trying to jump on pitches, and that’s why we popped up a lot,” Rawlings said. “As we came around, we settled in and let the ball travel a little bit, and that’s where we saw the hits. Going middle-away is something that we work on all the time, and that’s where most of our hits went when we settled in, to right-center.”
The 10-run lead could have given Pocatello a mercy-rule win with a clean bottom of the fifth, but Peyton Briggs singled to right to lead off the inning, was called safe at second on a potential double play as the second baseman came off the bag, and scored on a Hunter Atkinson single to get Malad on the board and keep the game going.
“We always fight tough until the end,” Malad coach Garen Atkinson said. “That’s just how we play.”
The Dragons then mounted a more serious comeback in the seventh, with four runs scoring on a walk, a single and three errors before Pocatello recorded the first out, but Rawlings left Burch in and the Razorbacks’ starter responded by getting three quick outs to end it.
Burch finished with 103 pitches thrown, two away from the single-game pitch count max of 105.
“Brody Burch, just what a great game that he pitched,” Rawlings said. “We almost went and got him at 59 pitches (in the fifth) and he would have been back in two days. ... But our plan going in was we were going to run him, give him a complete game and ride his arm and get the win, because this was a big game to get the win.”
Holt and Blackhawk drove in two runs apiece for Pocatello, which plays the winner of the late Idaho Falls Tigers-Wood River game Wednesday.
Atkinson drove in three for Malad.
POCATELLO RAZORBACKS 10, MALAD 5
Pocatello 001 090 0 — 10 8 7
Malad 000 010 4 — 5 5 4
Pocatello — WP: Brody Burch.
Malad — LP: Grady Combs.