POCATELLO — Any excitement that lingered from Friday night’s win was quickly zapped Saturday.
A night after the Pocatello Runnin Rebels locked up a Double-A Legion state tournament berth, they were abruptly escorted off their home field in the form of a 17-0, five-inning walloping at the hands of the Idaho Falls Bandits in the Area C tournament championship.
The Runnin Rebels (31-17) were no match for the loaded I.F. squad. Not Saturday, at least. The Bandits (46-5-1) are bolstered with players from Bonneville and Idaho Falls high schools, which faced off for this year’s 4A baseball state championship, plus the top players from Skyline, Hillcrest and Thunder Ridge.
Their starting pitcher Saturday night was Randon Hostert, a University of Utah signee who the Texas Rangers selected in the 15th round of this summer’s MLB Draft.
So there were plenty of highlights Saturday at Halliwell Park, just not the ones the Runnin Rebels are proud of.
“They’re probably one of the best teams that have come out of Idaho in a long time,” Pocatello coach Nick Sorrell said of the Bandits.
Hostert nearly kept the Runnin Rebels out of the hit column. Pocatello’s Payton Cleaves saved his team from being no-hit with a two-out, two-strike single in the fifth inning.
Hostert struck out 12 and walked one. He was only hassled twice by the Runnin Rebels — in the first inning when a dropped third strike and a hit-by-pitch put two on with no outs, and in the third when a walk and a plunk put two on with two outs.
Hostert shoved nine consecutive strikes past Pocatello to fan the side in the first, and induced a routine groundout to retire the third.
“When you get opportunities with people on, you have to take advantage of those,” Sorrell said. “I thought today we did a pretty good job of working the pitch count, but we just didn’t execute and we had too many strikeouts.”
At the plate, Hostert had a team-high three hits, including a double. Three other Bandits posted multi-hit games, including Tavyn Lords’ two-triple, three-RBI effort.
Eight of the Bandits’ nine starters drove in a run, and the team racked up 15 hits.
“If you hang the ball up, it’s going 450 feet,” Pocatello starting pitcher Ethan Wolfenbarger said of Idaho Falls’ lineup. “That’s about it.”
Wolfenbarger minimized the Bandits’ damage early, giving up two runs each in the first two frames. Then came the middle innings, which put the game out of reach.
The Bandits plated six runs in the third and seven more in the fourth. A couple Pocatello miscues aided the onslaught, but mostly the Bandits just bashed.
Wolfenbarger, who was pulled after two innings in accordance with Sorrell’s pitching plan, said he knew I.F. would bring offense.
“They’re not going to not score,” he said.
The right-hander gave way to teammates Josh Potter, Eben Curtiss and Cleaves. Pocatello’s pitching staff was shorthanded after an injury, so Sorrell deployed the by-committee approach.
“We were going to go one time through the lineup (with each pitcher), switch it, so that they couldn’t make adjustments,” Sorrell said. “That was our plan going in.”
Nothing worked against Idaho Falls, which beat the Runnin Rebels for the fifth time this season. The Bandits are averaging 15.2 runs per game in those matchups, compared to 2.4 for the Runnin Rebels.
“We’ve just got to be able to get over that mental hurdle and say, ‘You know what, we can compete with these guys,’” Sorrell said.
Next up for the Runnin Rebels is the state tournament from July 26-30 in Lewiston. I.F. will be there, too, as will the East Idaho Rockies, who beat the Twin Falls Cowboys 9-2 on Saturday to earn the district's third seed to state
“We’re going to get everything dialed in, go in there and try to represent this side of the state,” Sorrell said, “and do everything we can to bring home some hardware.”
IDAHO FALLS BANDITS 17, POCATELLO RUNNIN REBELS 0 (5)
Pocatello 000 00x x — 0 1 2
Idaho Falls 226 7xx x — 17 15 0
Pocatello — LP: Wolfenbarger.
Idaho Falls — WP: Hostert. 2B: Hostert, Webster. 3B: Lords (2).