POCATELLO — Two Pocatello Rebels players snuck behind coach Chris Seckel as he walked toward the team huddle.
Water cooler in hand, the players gave their coach a postgame cool-down to celebrate a successful day on the diamond.
The Single-A Rebels beat the Kimberly Astros 8-3 and 17-4 in five innings Friday in a doubleheader at Halliwell Park. The afternoon sweep extended the Rebels’ winning streak to six games as the team vies for position in the standings with the district tournament just over two weeks away.
“They’re starting to put mistakes behind them and they’re working a lot harder,” Seckel said Friday. “They’re hitting the ball really well lately.”
The Rebels’ winning streak follows a five-game losing streak that dropped the team’s record to a season-worst 8-15-2. After Friday’s victories, the Rebels (14-15-2) are on the verge of getting back to .500 for the first time since June 1, when they were 2-2.
The Rebels’ roster is, as usual, comprised of high school underclassmen and non-varsity players — a developmental Legion team of sorts, with the next steps being the Pocatello Razorbacks and Double-A Runnin Rebels. Seckel said one key to the young team’s turnaround is the players’ mentalities.
“Sometimes they just need to realize how good of ball players they are,” Seckel said, adding that his players are often aware of the age difference between them and many of their opponents. “They’re starting to beat these older teams.”
Friday’s wins were buoyed by early leads. In the 8-3 opener, the Rebels scored three runs each in the first and second innings to jump ahead 6-1. Austin Hansen went 3 for 3 with three RBIs, while teammates Ian Hershey, Kyler Spracklen and Colton Sneddon added two hits apiece.
Pocatello’s nearly error-free defense backed up Hansen on the mound. The starter struck out eight and walked four over 6 1/3 innings
In the 17-4 finale, the Rebels capitalized on five Kimberly errors with heads-up baserunning and well-executed small ball. Pocatello scored four runs in the first frame and eight runs in the second, when 12 batters stepped to the plate. Gabe Grimmett’s bunt rolled to no-man’s land in the infield, pushing a run across, and Austin Ebarb’s suicide squeeze two batters later plated another.
Nine players tallied an RBI in the 17-run onslaught, including a team-high three each from Hansen and Zach Tea.
On the mound, starter Colton Sneddon minimized Kimberly’s damage despite a shaky defense behind him. The right-hander gave up two hits in three innings of work, stranding five Astros on base.
“They hit really well and they picked up the signals that they got,” Seckel said. “They made a few more errors than normal, but they picked it up with the baserunning and hitting the ball.”
Up next for the Rebels is a home doubleheader Monday against the Twin Falls Cowboys. Seckel said his team has work to do to get itself into playoff position. The top four squads from the Rebels’ 10-team pool qualify for the Area C district tournament.
While no official standings are available, Seckel estimated Friday that the Rebels sat around fifth place.
“That’s going to be tough, but we’ll give it a shot,” Seckel said. “Either way, I’m proud of these kids. They’ve played really good ball and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
POCATELLO REBELS 8, KIMBERLY 3
Kimberly 010 100 1 — 3 4 2
Pocatello 330 200 x — 8 12 1
Kimberly — LP: Widmier. 2B: Widmier.
Pocatello — WP: Hansen. 2B: Ellis, Hansen, Hershey (2).
POCATELLO REBELS 17, KIMBERLY 4 (5)
Kimberly 120 10x x — 4 2 5
Pocatello 481 4xx x — 17 8 6
Kimberly — LP: Bybee.
Pocatello — WP: Sneddon. 2B: Spracklen, Tea. 3B: Ellis.