When the Idaho Falls High baseball team began practicing in February, the Tigers were missing some key pieces to their lineup.
Coach Trent Johnson didn’t mind.
“When guys go out and have success on the football field or basketball court, a lot of those lessons and experiences prepare them for success on the baseball field or in life,” Johnson said.
Johnson noted he’s a fan of the multi-sport athlete, so when likely baseball starters Andrew Gregersen, Braxton Ball, Jaxon Sorenson and Paul Wilson were deep in a postseason run with the basketball team, he was their No. 1 cheerleader.
The Tigers went on to win the 4A state basketball championship, the program’s first title since 1988. The atmosphere at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa was electric as players, coaches, parents, and long-time fans celebrated.
Less than 48 hours later, the players traded in their sneakers for cleats and shifted gears for baseball season.
The transition from basketball to baseball isn’t a new story, as every small school can attest, but going from the highest of the highs, to a new sport without missing a beat may be unique. Not only have the basketball players assimilated back to the ball field, the Tigers are 13-4 and in position for another postseason surge. After taking two of three from Skyline last week, Idaho Falls leads the 4A District 6 conference with a 9-2 record. The Tigers moved up to No. 3 in 4A in last week’s IdahoSports.com State Baseball Coaches’ Poll.
Gregersen said the quick transition from basketball to baseball wasn’t a big deal. Players missed two weeks of baseball practice, but were able to occasionally toss a ball around in the gym.
As for being able to enjoy the historic basketball championship, there wasn’t much time for reflection or celebration.
“We had Sunday,” Gregersen noted.
“I think the bond we created is on another level,” Ball said of carrying over any momentum or confidence from the basketball season. “Bringing it over to baseball will help a ton.”
Johnson said jumping immediately into baseball could have been tough. The basketball players returned four days before the first baseball game and were likely still feeling the emotion of winning the state title.
“I think there was an expectation of maybe a slow start,” Johnson said, adding that there was no hangover.
Wilson said he welcomed baseball season.
“I’ve always been a baseball player my whole life,” he said. “Coming back from winning state and doing something that hasn’t been done in 31 years … and then coming back and starting the grind all over again. It’s a lot of fun.”
Wilson said that while the quick transition to baseball was normal for the players, the experience and emotion of winning the basketball state title could prove beneficial. Especially in the coming weeks as the baseball postseason push heats up.
“I think we have momentum from basketball,” he said. “Other kids who went and watched, they all saw the fun in it. We all want another state championship for sure, but we know we have to work real hard for it … It’s my senior year and I want to go out on a high note.”