After it lay dormant for more than two decades, Malad rebooted its American Legion baseball program three years ago.
It didn’t have to wait long to win its first district championship.
The Dragons beat the Pocatello Razorbacks 8-3 on Wednesday to win the Single-A Area C tournament title at Twin Falls High School. The fourth-seeded Malad squad upset its way through the bracket, beating one 1 seed, one 2 and two 3s en route to the title.
“We never were the home team (on the scoreboard), not one time,” Malad coach Russ Wilson said. “Everybody we played was seeded higher than us. They played up.”
Wednesday’s victory — like the Dragons’ run through the tournament — was buoyed by defense. Malad played error-free in the field against Pocatello, aiding pitcher Grady Combs as he clung to a 1-0 lead through five innings.
The Dragons finally gained some breathing room in the sixth.
Two Razorbacks errors, three walks and three singles led to five runs in the frame for Malad. After Pocatello answered with three runs of its own, the Dragons added two insurance tallies in the seventh to push their lead to 8-3.
“We didn’t get very many hits that inning, but they got on base through walks and then their baserunning was just really good,” Wilson said. “They caught Pocatello sleeping a little bit and took it to them.”
In four district tournament games, Malad committed three errors, including error-free games Wednesday and in Tuesday’s semifinal against the Idaho Falls Knights.
The stingy defense helped Malad keep opposing run totals low. The Dragons outscored their opponents 25-7 during the tournament.
“The kids played some of the best defense in this whole tournament that I’ve eve seen them play,” Wilson said. “They made everybody work for every run that they got off of us. I couldn’t have been more impressed with the way they played.”
Pocatello (33-11-1) is Area C’s No. 2 seed at next week’s state tournament that starts Monday in Burley. Easton Eddie went 2 for 2 in Wednesday’s loss, while teammate Kobe Holt had two RBIs.
Combs and Traven Ward had two hits each for Malad, which is the district’s No. 1 seed at state. Combs scored three times and had two RBIs Wednesday out of Malad’s leadoff spot.
Wilson said Wednesday’s win was extra sentimental for some Malad dads in the crowd who donned Malad Legion jerseys back in the day.
Now, the next generation is leading the Dragons into the state tournament.
“They’ve been playing ball together for a long time,” Wilson said. “They’ve grown up together playing ball, and they really are good team. They’re real easy to coach.”
MARSH VALLEY FALLS IN CONSOLATION BRACKET
Marsh Valley’s season ended Wednesday with a 12-11 loss to Burley in a loser-out game of the Single-A Area C Legion tournament at Twin Falls High School.
The Eagles plated five runs in the third and six in the fourth to build an 11-5 lead. Burley chipped at it from there, scoring twice in the fifth, three times in the sixth and twice in the seventh to walk off a winner.
The game ended with two outs in the seventh, when Slayder Watterson hit a walk-off two-run double.
Kaden Morrison went 3 for 4 with two doubles and four RBIs for the Eagles. Payton Campbell hit a three-run home run in the third.
Marsh Valley finished the season 23-6.
WEDNESDAY'S BOX SCORES
MALAD 8, POCATELLO RAZORBACKS 3
Malad 100 005 2 — 8 8 0
Pocatello 000 003 0 — 3 4 2
Malad — WP: Combs. 2B: Olsen, Smith.
Pocatello — LP: Graham.
BURLEY 12, MARSH VALLEY 11
Marsh Valley 005 600 0 — 11 10 4
Burley 410 023 2 — 12 13 4
Marsh Valley — LP: Anderson. 2B: Morrison (2). 3B: S. Howell. HR: Campbell.
Burley — WP: Macias. 2B: S. Watterson, Ferrin. HR: E. Watterson.