FIRTH – The bracket for the 2A Idaho State Baseball Tournament has been filled out and the six district champions — Malad, Declo, Nampa Christian, Challis-Mackay, and Grangeville — have claimed their spots.
Also in the bracket are Cole Valley, the third place finisher from District 3, Melba, the second place finisher from District 3, and Firth, the second place finisher from District 6.
Cole Valley had to withstand a play-in game against St. Maries from District 1-2 and Firth had to win a play-in game against the District 5 runner-up Bear Lake.
All of that is now history and the only thing that matters is who the eight teams have drawn for the opening day assignments and how they will fare come Thursday.
The 2A tournament will take place in Orofino and is a true double-elimination affair.
The opening game features Malad and Declo. Malad is probably one of the tournament’s favorites and they have posted a 21-2 record on the year. There probably isn’t a person in Idaho outside of the fans of Declo who think that the Dragons won’t win that first game. Malad has already downed Declo four times this season, so it isn’t a stretch to think that they won’t make it five straight.
One of the losses on their resume is a 9-1 loss to Challis-Mackay, but they won’t have to worry about that foe until the finals if they make it that far. Their other loss is to 3A Marsh Valley, who won their district in the 3A classification. The Dragons are a force to be reckoned with. Malad has also beaten Nampa Christian, their likely second round match-up on Friday.
Pencil in Malad as a very likely finalist.
Nampa Christian has been one of the favorites all season long. The Trojans are a 20-game winner and they will also be a very tough competitor. They may have lost to Malad on a couple of occasions, but they have handled everyone else on the schedule except for teams from their own conference. The Trojans got hot at the right time and stormed through their district tournament, downing Cole Valley and Melba to close out the tournament. They draw a conference foe in Cole Valley in the state tournament, and the Cole Valley team won 19 games this year, so they could spring an upset.
Melba drew the Challis-Mackay Rivercats, who had a stellar season. The Rivercats finished 18-3 on the season, but two of those losses came at the hands of the Firth Cougars, so it could be Melba who has a bit of an edge. Melba was 19-5 on the year and played in the always tough Southern Idaho Conference and faced the likes of Nampa Christian and Cole Valley on a daily basis. Melba will present the Rivercats with an offense that they may not be ready to handle. Melba gets the nod here, sending the Rivercats to the elimination side of the bracket.
That brings up the fourth game of the opening day, Grangeville against Firth. Firth has great pitching. They have 10 shutouts on the season and for the most part have been very stingy giving up runs. There were only five times that the Cougars gave up more than three runs in a game. That says a lot, but the Cougars will also have to play defense and in the games that they have lost, it has been because of their defense. The Cougars have a good defense, but the mental mistakes have been costly. The Cougars also have a strong core of seniors and that is where their strength lies. The likes of Ben Park, Kai Park, Grayson Nelson and the other seniors will have to lead this team.
The Cougars should win their first game against Grangeville, which comes into the tournament with a 13-8 record. They have losses to Melba and Cole Valley from the field in the tournament and it appears that Firth is just a bit better. Look for Firth to win its opener and advance to the semi-finals.
From the semi-finals, it could just be anybody’s tournament to win or lose.
The tournament begins on Thursday, with games at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m., and 6:15 p.m. The winners will come back on Friday at 3 and 5:30 p.m. while the elimination bracket will present games at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.