Printed on: May 16, 2013

Stinging stars

Bonneville enters 4A state tournament at 23-0

By MICHAEL LYCKLAMA
mlycklama@postregister.com

An undefeated season is impressive, no matter the sport.

But every year, a couple of high school football teams run through the regular season with a spotless record. And every couple of years, a basketball team flirts with perfection.

Baseball is different. One of its oldest cliches is the wrong team wins 30 percent of the time. That percentage is lower at the high school level, where the talent gap is wider. But it still rings true in a game where an odd hop can make the difference between a win and a loss, and momentum is limited to tomorrow's starting pitcher.

Looking down the Bonneville roster though, it's not so surprising the Bees enter the 4A state tournament today at 23-0.

Nine of the 11 Bonneville players suited up for the 2008 Idaho

Falls Americans, an all-star team of 12-year-olds that reached the Cal Ripken Major/70 World Series in Maryland as one of 10 qualifiers from the United States.

That big-game experience leaves the Bees with a shrug when talking about this week's state tournament. They've played in loads of big games the past five years. Today's 4A state tournament opener against Twin Falls (20-7) at 7 p.m. at Bishop Kelly High School is just another one for Bonneville.

"Since we've been to all these things as a team, being able to go to a big place, to a big game, is kind of normal for our team," Bonneville junior Chance Reese said.

The Bees' 23-0 record and fourth straight district title doesn't do their season justice. Bonneville has dominated its Idaho competition, a 1-0 win against Idaho Falls its only close game of the spring. The Bees even traveled to a prestigious national baseball event, the Coach Bob National Invitational in Arizona, and still couldn't find a team to hang a digit in their loss column.

A high level is expected from a group as decorated as Bonneville's. Bees coach Joldy Watts knew he had a special group coming into his program. But it's the work they've done since reaching the Cal Ripken World Series that leaves them unbeaten entering the state tournament.

Watts points out that many all-star youth teams don't excel in high school. Many times, those 12-year-olds were the top athletes in their area and have moved on to other sports. Other times, they were so much better than their peers because they grew earlier. By high school, the physical disparity disappears.

"A lot of those kids are absolutely studs when they're 12. And then they get in high school and they're not studs," Watts said. "I think every single one of them has grown as a baseball player. That has a lot to do with being in a group of kids that are going to push each other. It's kind of a, 'Well, that guy's getting better. Now I need to get better.'"

And that group has stayed together. Jaxon Bird moved into Bonneville from Shelley. Jalen Fuhriman transferred into District 93 in middle school from Idaho Falls' boundaries. And Reese was supposed to go to Skyline.

Only three members of the '08 Cal Ripken team won't dress in Bonneville green this weekend. Corbin John plays for Idaho Falls, Grayson Wilkie suits up for Skyline and Deryk Biggs golfs for Bonneville.

The Bees admit they didn't play their best baseball of the season in the district tournament, beating Century 9-5 and committing a season-high five errors in an 11-3 win against Pocatello in the district title game.

But they enter the state tournament rested and confident despite a pair of 20-win teams -- Bishop Kelly and Twin Falls -- on its side of the bracket. Bonneville ace pitcher Kohl Hostert said they've ironed out the issues that plagued them last week and are ready to bring back the school's first title since 1992.

"If we play our best, I don't think anyone can beat us," Hostert said. "But we have to play our best. We can't take anyone easy."

Bees baseball by the numbers

The Bonneville High School baseball team has rolled to a 23-0 record heading into today's 4A state tournament opener against Twin Falls. But the Bees haven't just gone undefeated -- they've dominated their competition.

9.4 Average margin of victory for the Bees, who are scoring 11.2 runs per game while allowing 1.8.

5 Amount of times Bonneville has trailed this spring. Only once has it trailed for more than an inning.

21 Home runs by Bonneville's Jake Holcomb (6), Lincoln Clayton (5), Tyson Craig (5), Kohl Hostert, Jaxon Bird and Chance Reese in 23 games.

.640 Team slugging percentage for the Bees.

1.42 Team ERA, led by the trio of Hostert, Clayton and Jalen Fuhriman.

202 Strikeouts for the Bonneville pitching staff in 148 innings. The Bees are averaging 9.6 strikeouts per game, have walked only 63 batters and are surrendering an average of 4.1 hits per game.

3 Number of seniors on the roster. Outside of Fuhriman, Holcomb and Clay Smith, the other eight are juniors.