POCATELLO — It’s been and up-and-down season for the Pocatello Runnin Rebels, and Tuesday’s doubleheader lived up to the trend.
Pocatello’s Double-A Legion squad split its doubleheader against Upper Valley at Halliwell Park, winning the opener 2-1 before dropping the final game 4-3.
In the win, Seth Nate tripled home Pocatello’s first run in the third inning. Ethan Wolfenbarger made it 2-0 with an RBI fielder’s choice in the fourth.
Two runs were plenty for Payton Cleaves. Pocatello’s pitcher gave up one run on five hits, with seven strikeouts and three walks in six innings pitched. He got ahead of the hitters he faced, throwing first-pitch strikes to 19 out of 27.
The Runnin Rebels’ strong pitching continued into game two. Eben Curtiss took a no-hitter into the fourth inning and retired seven straight batters between the first and third frames.
But Pocatello’s errors started to pile up in the fourth. Upper Valley scored two runs that inning thanks to defensive miscues, taking a 2-1 lead.
The Runnin Rebels tied the game at 2-2 when Cleaves singled home Braxton Wilhelm in the bottom of the fourth inning. Curtiss’ command started to fail him after that, though. Upper Valley scored the go-ahead run on a bases-loaded hit by pitch in the fifth.
Pocatello tied it again in the home half of the inning when Nate scored on a two-out error by Upper Valley.
The Cougars plated the game’s final run in the sixth — another two-error frame for the Runnin Rebels. Pocatello didn’t get a base runner past first base the rest of the way and finished with nine runners left hanging.
“We had some great pitching performances,” Runnin Rebels coach Nick Sorrell said. “We just can’t give them opportunities like that, and we have to take care of our side of things when they give us extra opportunities. We’ve got to get those extra runs in.”
The Runnin Rebels (19-10, 13-8 Area C) have split their last five doubleheaders and have split eight overall. Sorrell said his team’s consistency largely depends on its ability to pitch and play defense.
“If we throw strikes, we’re going to be in every single game,” Sorrell said. “But when we walk people, that’s when we have those bad games because our defense falls asleep. If we can get past that point, we’re a difficult team to handle.”
But deep pitching has been hard to come by. American Legion’s pitch count rules state that no pitcher can throw more than 105 pitches in a game, and pitchers must go four days without pitching if they eclipsed 80 pitches in a game.
Sorrell said luckily, most of his 12-player roster can pitch if called upon. But managing the pitching staff and pitch counts is challenging during four- or five-day tournaments at which a team may play eight games or more.
“Our kids are stepping up,” Sorrell said. “There’s been kids that we’ve put on the mound that haven’t pitched a whole lot during high school season, but they’re getting their opportunity right now and they’re stepping up, and that’s what it’s all about. ... I can’t ask for much more than that.”
The Runnin Rebels also have many road games ahead. Through Tuesday, they’ve played 14 of 29 games at home. But they won’t play at Halliwell park again until July 13, following tournaments in Bozeman, Montana, and Twin Falls.
Through all the challenges, the team entered Tuesday tied for second in the Area C standings. The Runnin Rebels also host the district tournament this year, July 18-20 at Halliwell Park.
“I want us to be hitting on all cylinders when we get to that point,” Sorrell said.
POCATELLO RUNNIN REBELS 2, UPPER VALLEY 1
Upper Valley 000 001 0 — 1 6 1
Pocatello 001 100 x — 2 9 1
Upper Valley — LP: Erikson.
Pocatello — WP: Cleaves. 3B: Nate.
UPPER VALLEY 4, POCATELLO RUNNIN REBELS 3
Upper Valley 000 211 0 — 4 4 3
Pocatello 001 110 0 — 3 9 4
Upper Valley — WP: Sa. Klingler. 2B: Gonzalez, Se. Klingler.
Pocatello – LP: Curtiss. 3B: Jester.