The first seed took it all at the North Idaho American Legion (NIAL) district tournament at Butler Park on the weekend but the Trail Jays proved they’re not far from the top.
The Coeur d’Alene Lumbermen cruised through the district tournament taking all three games and ensuring their spot in the NIAL State championship.
The fourth-seeded Trail Jays beat the fifth seeded Cranbrook Bandits 10-0 in their first game as Jarret Conway struck out nine batters on four hits for the shutout victory.
Friday, they faced the number-one seeded Lumbermen. The Jays got off to a good start and with solid pitching and a two-run home run by Dallas Calvin, the Jays jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
After striking out the side in the second and third innings, the wheels started to squeak in the fourth as the Lumbermen began to find their bats.
Calvin hit a batter then gave up a single, a walk, another hit batter and a single as the Lums tied the game at three. The Lumbermen’s bats stayed hot, hitting three straight singles to score one in the fifth and a two-run home run in the sixth, to put the loggers up 6-3.
Calvin left the game in the seventh after throwing 148 pitches and finishing with 11 strikeouts. Coeur d’Alene would add three more for a 9-3 victory.
“The team with the most depth in pitching is the team that’s going to win.” said Jays coach Chris Combo. “We have pretty good depth but just came up a little short.”
The Jays bounced back the next game as they took on the sixth seed Sandpoint Lakers. Heading into the eighth inning, the Jays held a commanding 4-1 lead but three Laker runs in the last two innings tied the game at four. It would take a grand slam home run in the tenth inning by Garrett Kucher before the Jays could declare an 8-4 victory.
Jordan Roblin and Jarret Conway delivered a great performance striking out 17 batters over ten innings.
“We played real well this tournament. Just a couple things didn’t go our way in a few of the innings and ended up being the difference in most of the games.”
The win meant the Jays would face the Lewis-Clark Twins in the quarterfinals.
The perennial favourite Twins had not missed a state championship in about 15 years said Jays’ president, Dale Glover and as recent as four years ago came second in the nationals.
While the Twins were not the team they have been in the past, they still had a formidable lineup and jumped out to a 6-0 lead before the Jays started hitting. Mental lapses also hurt the Jays in the fourth and fifth, as the Twins scored five runs on two passed balls and three errors.
“We scrapped our way back and made it a game,” said Combo. “If we had eliminated those errors we would have been in a position to win the game.”
In the eighth inning, Kyle Paulson led off with a single followed by a Jeff Soukeroff double and singles by Kucher and Brady Glover to make it 6-3. The Jays would add one more in the ninth but come up short.
Meanwhile, the third-seeded Prairie Cardinals ensured themselves of a spot in the NIAL State tournament by beating the Twins 10-8 in the semi-final to advance to the championship.
With a depleted pitching staff, the Cardinals dropped the final game against the Lumbermen 15-2 in an anti-climactic match.