The Bonneville High School baseball team made history at last year’s state tournament, capping off a remarkable 26-0 season with the program’s first state title since 1992.
The Bees can’t repeat the undefeated feat this year. But they can win another state title, and that’s the only thing that matters when they take the field at 1 p.m. today to take on Bishop Kelly in the opening round of the 4A state tournament at Rodeo Park in Nampa. Bonneville beat Bishop Kelly in last year’s state semifinals.
Bonneville didn’t overpower the competition this year, dropping three early games at the Coach Bob National Invitational in Arizona before having their two-year win streak against Idaho teams snapped with back-to-back losses to Skyline and Blackfoot in the final week of the regular season.
The Bees shook off that late-season slump, winning its final game of the regular season to secure the conference’s top seed, and then rallying past Pocatello to win the school’s fifth straight district tournament title.
Bonneville coach Joldy Watts said this year’s team has the same goal and a new challenge.
“It’s a different type of pressure … it’s a defending state champion pressure,” he said. “The one thing we got this year was everybody’s best. I don’t think teams overlooked us last year, but we definitely got the best of everybody this year. We got to see everybody’s best arm, and it seemed like people played their best against us.”
Teams will need their best to beat the Bees.
Senior Kohl Hostert, who will play at the University of Oregon next year, had another dominating season. The right-hander was 6-1 in seven starts with a 0.43 ERA. He allowed 17 hits and three earned runs while walking 11 and striking out 67 in 49 innings.
Senior Lincoln Clayton, who will play at BYU next year, wasn’t far behind. The right-hander posted a 5-1 record with a 2.55 ERA. He allowed 12 earned runs on 21 hits with 25 walks and 41 strikeouts in 33 innings. He also hit .386 with 14 doubles, 29 runs and 15 RBIs.
Senior Tyson Craig led the team is batting average (.483), home runs (4) and RBIs (25). All but one of the Bees starters hit over .300.
“Our message to the team was simple,” Watts said. “Enjoy the week, because you never know when you’re going to get back to one of these.”
Here’s a look at the other District 6 teams heading to the state baseball tournaments.
Opening game: vs. District 3 champion Eagle (19-5), 4:30 p.m. today at Boise Hawks Stadium
Notes: The Bobcats put together a solidly consistent regular season that featured two regular-season wins over district champion Highland and an impressive district tournament sweep of Skyline. Though Madison dropped its final game, a 6-1 loss to Highland in the district tournament title game, the Bobcats feel they have what it takes to succeed at state. Madison won its opening game at state last year before falling to Coeur d’Alene in the semifinals and Highland in the third-place game. Madison will lean on pitchers Braxton Cook, Braxton Boyle and Matt Bolingbroke and a steady defense to offset a less-than-explosive offense.
Opening game: vs. District 5 champion Marsh Valley, 4:30 p.m. today at Fruitland High School
Notes: Shelley stormed to the district tournament title last week behind the dominating pitching performances of ace Kaden Schmitt and Tyler Bean. The duo each struck out 15 in their starts, which ended with a 1-0 win over Teton and a 2-1 win over South Fremont. It was Shelley’s first district title since 2002, when current Russets coach Trent Armstrong was a key player in the Shelley lineup. “It meant so much to me when I played,” Armstrong said. “I hoped I could bring back what I was used to when I was there.” He’s well on his way to doing just that. And with similar pitching performances from Schmitt and Bean, the Russets should be one of the favorites to win it all.
Opening game: vs. District 3 champion Fruitland, 7 tonight at Fruitland High School
Notes: For the second time in three years, Teton will open against perennial power Fruitland — and this time the Redskins get to play the Grizzlies on their home field. But Teton showed its toughness at last week’s district tournament, bouncing back from a first-round loss to Shelley to beat Sugar-Salem and then top-seeded South Fremont to reach state. The Redskins are led on the mound by Jaxon Reiley, Kolton Bleggi and Cole McCallum, while Bleggi is among the area’s top hitters.