BLACKFOOT – It is a fact that the Blackfoot Broncos American Legion AA team has made major strides in its improvement as a baseball team this summer. With a couple of exceptions, they have been competitive against every team they have played, and they have played a bunch of different teams up to this point in the season.
In recent weeks, the Broncos have found themselves splitting doubleheaders against teams that a lot would argue were much better than the Broncos. The exciting thing about that is the Broncos have done a lot of their damage with a team that has been depleted somewhat by injuries and vacations and missing players due to involvement in other sports.
In recent days, the Broncos traveled to Twin Falls and were defeated when the Blackhawks threw a no-hitter against the men in green. The Broncos, unfazed by that circumstance, came right back in the second game and threw a no-hitter of their own to earn a split. A week earlier, the Broncos faced a team that has to be one of the favorites in the Legion Conference in the Runnin’ Rebels of Pocatello and came away with a split there as well.
The Broncos haven’t been perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but they are getting better and they are becoming a lot more fun to watch.
On Wednesday, the Broncos were facing another daunting task. Coming to Blackfoot were the Idaho Falls Bandits, a team that had not lost to an Idaho-based team all season. It technically wasn’t a doubleheader, but the first game was the conclusion of a game that the two teams began a number of weeks ago and the the Bandits were leading 7-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning.
It didn’t take the Bandits long to add another run to that total, pushing the score to 8-0 and sending the game to the fifth inning.
The Broncos were unable to plate a run in the top of the fifth and the Bandits came back up to bat in the bottom half of the inning. It didn’t take very long before the Bandits secured the win by plating a pair of runs, extending the lead to 10-0 and ending the game due to the 10-run mercy rule in Legion baseball.
That set up the second game, a very important one, especially for the Broncos as seeding will be important in the district tournament which begins on Wednesday. The Bandits are pretty locked into the top seed and they were basically playing just to run out the string and get ready for the tournament.
The Broncos’ coaching staff sent out big left-handed pitcher/first baseman Chase Turner to the mound to begin the game. Turner had been pretty solid in recent outings and when he controlled his location, he was almost untouchable. That was the case as the game unfolded in the early innings. No one would have guessed at the action that would follow, eventually leading to a big Broncos win in the bottom of the seventh inning by the final of 7-6.
Turner was perfect through the first two innings, six up and six down for the Bandits and Turner was making it look easy.
In the bottom of the second inning, everything changed, and as you might expect, it began with Turner at the plate. A pitch from the Bandits sailed high and inside, striking Turner in the face when he couldn’t get out of the way. Landing squarely on his nose, there was little doubt that it broke his nose and possibly a cheek bone. Needless to say, it forced Turner from the game, but it also rallied the Broncos who were able to score a pair of runs to take a 2-0 lead after two innings.
The Bandits, being who they are and have been all season, came right back and scored a pair of runs themselves to tie the score at 2-2.
The Broncos rallied once again, some of that never say die attitude that they seem to have the power to dredge up from the depths and retook the lead with a run of their own in the bottom of the third inning.
The Bandits were not done, and they began to spray the ball all over the field as they would eventually plate three runs to take a 5-3 lead and seemingly gain control of the game.
The Broncos coaching staff promptly put Dosa Nappo into the game as the pitcher. In recent outings, Nappo has become a very dependable relief pitcher for the Broncos and he did a yeoman’s job on Wednesday. He cleaned up the fourth inning, pitched a clean fifth inning and left in the sixth inning, responsible for a runner on base. You couldn’t have asked for anything better from Nappo in this game.
When the Broncos came up in the bottom of the fifth inning, they scratched and clawed and made something happen. They took the lead when they were able to score three runs and retake the lead on the Bandits by a score of 6-5. It was almost a case of “anything you can do, I can do better.”
The Bandits, as they have done all season, came right back in the top of the sixth inning, getting one run and tying the game at 6. They also brought in a reliever to shut the Broncos’ rally down.
The Bandits did stop the Broncos from scoring in the sixth and they then failed to score themselves in the top of the seventh.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Broncos came to the plate determined to end the game right then and there. They were basically out of pitchers, they were playing with a depleted roster of only 10 players with the injury to Turner. Things looked bleak for Blackfoot, but at times, that is when the Broncos seem to muster their best.
They got two runners on base, bringing Carlos Pimentel up to the plate.
Pimentel lashed a ball up the middle that glanced off the glove of the second baseman and into center field, a walk-off single that gave the win to Blackfoot 7-6.
The win by the Broncos is the first loss of the season to an Idaho-based team suffered by the Bandits.
With the win,the Broncos saw their season record improve to 10-17 with games remaining against Minico today with the first pitch scheduled at 4 and 6 p.m. and then on Monday when they travel to Rigby to tangle with the combined team of Rigby/Rexburg. Again, times are at 4 and 6 p.m.
District tournament play begins on Wednesday and when the schedule is available it will be printed in the Chronicle.