Before Brody Burch had a chance to put his first foot onto the tightrope, Vinnie Benavidez strolled from the dugout onto the Halliwell Park mound. In Saturday’s 4A District 5 semifinal against Preston, Pocatello’s head coach had to share a few words with his starting pitcher before he ventured into the wilderness: Up 4-3 in the top of the seventh, runners on second and third, nobody out.

Keep attacking hitters, Benavidez told Burch. Focus up. Take control, especially when you’re ahead.

If Benavidez isn’t a motivational speaker already, he might consider looking into joining the profession. After he walked off the mound, Burch danced out of trouble like a burglar dodging red lasers in a bank robbery. He struck out Preston outfielder Damon Winn with a wicked slider. Then he induced a weak liner, which Pocatello first baseman Kaden Knowles snagged with a dive. For his last trick, he coaxed an easy flyout out of Austin Gleed, sealing Poky’s 4-3 win and sending the Thunder onto Tuesday’s district title game.

Pocatello will play the winner of Century and Preston.

If you’re wondering how on earth Burch eluded that jam, well, you aren’t the only one. Here’s how Burch explained it: “Kinda just trusting the defense that I don’t have to try and get out of this by myself. If I put a ball on the ground, they’ll make plays. Which was huge.”

The interesting part is that Burch found himself in that spot, in part, because of an error. In this win, which Pocatello secured thanks to a three-run third inning and RBIs from Burch, Jayce Vaughan, Mack Evans and Hunter Killian, Burch had to elude trouble like he never had earlier this season. So let’s examine how exactly he did.

“For Brody to actually get up there and actually attack hitters and not try to be too fine,” Benavidez said, “you saw his demeanor didn’t change. He wasn’t rattled.”

Burch got off to an inauspicious start by leaving a fastball over the plate for leadoff hitter Davon Inglet, who lofted it into left-center for a base hit. “That kid’s been hitting pretty good, into the gaps,” Burch said. “Think I just left it over (the plate.)”

That put the Indians’ leadoff runner on, an encouraging start for the visitors. Then came Preston’s pitcher, Chayse Oxborrow, who recognized a hanging slider and lifted it into left field. The only problem for Poky: Wind and sunlight conspired to make things difficult on outfielder Alex Winn, who couldn’t handle the catch. The ball dropped to the grass and both runners moved up, landing one on second and one on third — with nobody out.

That’s when Benavidez made his mound visit. The rest of the infield joined him. Pocatello would have several chances to respond — in the bottom of the inning, plus the next game — but still, the tension simmered above the turf like heat over a stove.

Benavidez asked if he was doing OK. He encouraged him to keep going after hitters. Benavidez had arranged his middle infielders in normal position and corner infielders in, that way they could throw out a potential game-tying run, but he still wanted Burch to pitch like himself.

One thing that remained in the back of Benavidez’s mind: Burch was hovering around 95 pitches, quickly approaching his pitch limit of 110 pitches per day. If he went over, Pocatello would face serious repercussions, serious enough to force the team to forfeit the game. So he trusted Burch to close out the game, but in case he came close to the pitch limit, he had arms warming up.

Then he walked back off the mound.

That’s when Preston’s Winn strode to the plate. He showed bunt. He couldn’t lay one down before Burch burned him for two strikes, so Winn had to swing away. Then Pocatello catcher Martin Serrano, a sophomore calling the game, signaled for a slider. Burch slung one across the zone. Winn whiffed. One out.

Then Burch had to face Karson Chugg. On a 1-1 count, Burch fed him a fastball, which Chugg took the other way. That’s when Knowles laid out on the infield grass and nabbed it. He showed it to the infield umpire, who called Chugg out. Two outs.

Which prompts a question: Did Burch feel nervous at all when Oxborrow made contact? “Kinda,” Burch said. “It kinda looked like he missed it, hit the end of the bat. That was the best way it could have worked out.”

Then Burch had to get one out. He got it when he got Gleed to fly out to right. Game over on a slider that Gleed popped up.

“Luckily, I left it far enough out that he squared it up, but he didn’t get all of it,” Burch said, “and flew out to right field.”

Greg Woods is a sports reporter at the Idaho State Journal. Follow him on Twitter at GregWWoods.