POCATELLO — In a matchup of two local teams, the Malad Dragons’ 2020 season came to an end Wednesday afternoon at the hands of the Marsh Valley Eagles.
The Eagles went up big with a five-run third inning, and Malad’s valiant comeback effort fell two runs short as Marsh Valley took a 6-4 win in a loser-out game in the Single-A state tournament at Halliwell Park in Pocatello.
After a solid first two innings during which he yielded a single run, Malad starting pitcher Isaiah Finlayson started struggling with command issues in the third.
With the score knotted up at 1, seven consecutive Eagle batters reached base, four via the walk. Finlayson walked home a run with the bases loaded, and the Eagles even scored a run on the play when the Dragons finally recorded their first out of the inning, which came on a play at the plate. A fielder’s choice, a single, a walk and two runs later, the inning mercifully came to an end after Finlayson induced a pop fly.
Down 6-1, Malad got two runs back in the top of the 4th, with Dillon Evans driving home Finlayson and later scoring on a Jon Evans hit. With the deficit reduced to a more manageable three and still no outs in the inning, Malad was looking for more.
Payton Briggs followed with a chopper to Marsh Valley’s second baseman and nearly beat the throw, but was called out at first.
If that play tempered Malad’s momentum, the following one made it crash into a brick wall.
Hunter Atkinson hit a hard liner to Marsh Valley second baseman Payton Campbell. In an astounding defensive play reminiscent of Ozzie Smith, Campbell scooped up the ball, sprinted to second and cleated the bag just long enough to make a twisting, leaping throw, turning the double play by the thinnest of margins.
The pain of the inning was palpable in the Malad dugout and in the visitor’s section of the stands at Bill Derham Memorial Field, but the Dragons stayed in it thanks to the relief work of Jon Evans.
After plating a run in the previous frame, Evans took over mound duty from the struggling Finlayson after the fourth and had a sensational relief effort that saw him mute the previously thunderous Eagle bats, yielding just two hits over three innings of work, striking out four and walking one.
His first relief frame was especially dominant and saw him induce more whiffs than two dozen hot-out-of-the-oven Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
On twelve pitches in the fifth, Evans threw hard strikes on nine of them, most of which the opposing batter was well behind. Contact with the ball was made three times total, twice for foul balls and once for a feeble grounder to third for the final out.
Unfortunately for the Dragons, only one of the requisite three runs was earned back – on a Hunter Atkinson RBI single in the sixth – and when Dillon Evans popped out in the top of the seventh, it signaled the end of the game, as well as Malad’s season.
“We had a great season,” Malad coach Russ Wilson said. “The last two games were plagued by the infamous ‘one bad inning.’ It’s baseball and that’s how it falls sometimes. I thought everyone played really well.”
In the late Single-A game, the Pocatello Razorbacks led the Idaho Falls Tigers 9-4 in the bottom of the fourth. Marsh Valley will play the loser of that game.
MARSH VALLEY 6, MALAD 4
Malad 010 201 0 — 4 4 2
Marsh Valley 105 000 X — 6 7 5
Malad — LP: Isiah Finlayson.
Marsh Valley — WP: Stanton Howell.