POCATELLO — A quick perusal of the box score of Malad’s 11-1 victory over the Buhl Tribe in the opening round of the Single-A American Legion state tournament Monday night at Halliwell Park would not reveal any eye-popping stat lines or gaudy numbers. Peyton Briggs led the team in hits and RBIs, totaling three of each. While certainly not a bad day at the proverbial office, it’s far from a rarity in Legion baseball.
Therein lies the beauty of Malad baseball. No, there wasn’t a single stat line that was excellent. However, virtually every stat line was impressive.
The collaboration to the effort is helped significantly by the small-town team’s familiarity with each other.
“These boys have been together a while and they like each other, so there’s no friction,” Dragons skipper Russ Wilson told the Journal earlier this year. “They’re a pleasure to coach.”
Even the scoring was evenly distributed, with the Dragons tallying at least one run in each of the five innings played.
Trever Howe put the Dragons on the board and ahead for good in the top of the first inning by doubling to center and knocking home Grady Combs. Combs also drove home the second run for the Dragons in the top of the second inning with a hard liner to center to drive in Peyton Briggs.
The dam didn’t break in the top of the third, but it sprung several concerning leaks in the form of four runs that gave the Dragons a commanding 6-0 lead. The Dragon bats once again breathed fire in the next frame, scoring four more runs to go up by 10.
Hunter Atkinson notched an additional insurance run in the top of the 5th after he reached base due an error by Buhl’s shortstop, scoring Dillon Evans.
The Tribe managed to notch their first run of the game in the bottom of the innign on a sacrifice fly off relief pitcher Jon Evans, who spelled starter Isaiah Finlayson. Thanks to Atkinson’s run in the prior inning, Malad still won the game after just five innings by virtue of its 10-run lead.
Finlayson compiled a gem of a game in relatively short mound time, pitching 3 1/3 innings, ceding a single hit, walking none and striking out 4. Evans picked up where Finlayson left off, striking out three and keeping the Dragons walk-free.
A single error that didn’t end up mattering in the grand scheme of things was the sole minor blemish in the Dragons’ defensive effort.
In the second round of the double-elimination tournament, Malad will face a team with which it’s very familiar in the Pocatello Razorbacks. The Dragons and Razorbacks split their last doubleheader on July 18.