STATE HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL TOURNAMENTS: Slow start, but fast finish for Trojans

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For the first couple of weeks of the baseball season, Post Falls coach Mick Zeller knew his team was better than the record they held.

Still, they needed some work.

The Trojans won six of eight games to close the regular season, then won two one-run games at regionals, in addition to a 1-0 win over Borah in a state play-in game to advance.

“We started the season pretty slow,” said Zeller, whose team opened the season 1-4. “We went to the Tri-Cities and lost three of four games and were sitting at 3-5, and felt we should have been better.”

Post Falls went 2-2 in the North/South tournament in Lewiston before spring break, beating Caldwell and Hillcrest. They lost 2-1 to Mountain View to open the tournament. Mountain View (20-6), the District 3 runner-up, will face Bonneville (22-5), the District 5-6 champion in the second game today.

“We’d have lots of leads in games and our defense would fail us and we’d give up the lead,” Zeller said. “Things started to come together for us around the middle of the season.”

5A: Post Falls (15-11) opens its first trip to state since 2006 against defending champion Rocky Mountain High of Meridian (22-4), the District 3 (Boise) champion, today at 3:30 p.m. PDT at Borah High in Boise.

Post Falls won the regional second-place game 3-2 over Coeur d’Alene in 11 innings, then held off Borah 1-0 in the state play-in game at Walker Field in Lewiston.

“After that 11-inning game, I told our kids that game is going to help us in the future,” said Zeller in his second year in his second stint as Trojans coach. “We’ve just been battling each pitch and at-bat. Just playing in those pressure situations has been a big help for us, and it helped (Saturday).”

Senior catcher Nate Buer is batting .383 on the season with 28 runs scored.

Post Falls’ last appearance at state was as a 4A program.

“I’m sure everyone down there is going to be tough,” Zeller said. “We’re looking forward to the same tough competition that we’ve had up north all year. We’re definitely coming together right now. I just told our kids we’re going to keep scratching and grinding it out.”

Lewiston, the Region 1 champion, faces Eagle (15-11), the fourth-place team from District 3 in today’s opening round.

3A: The message was simple from the opening day of workouts in Timberlake coach Cameron Knigge’s second season at the helm.

18-13.

About that.

In 2017, leading Teton in the consolation championship, Timberlake led 12-3 before things unraveled, allowing Teton to rally for an 18-13 win.

“The biggest thing I learned as a coach is that you can’t take anything for granted,” Knigge said. “We thought we were going to bring back a trophy and ended up losing 18-13. You can’t let off the gas pedal.”

Knigge reminded them about it during that first meeting of the season.

“The first thing I told the team was ‘18-13,’” Knigge said. “And you could see that piss some kids off. And it was all business from there. These guys have a lot of fun playing baseball and are a fun group to be around. Sometimes, they have to tell me to lighten up, and when it comes down to it, it’s just a game.”

Timberlake (14-7) opens at state today at Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario, Ore., against Marsh Valley (19-3), the District 5 champion.

“I think for us, just knowing we went last year and got a taste, we should be OK,” Knigge said. “Our goal at the beginning of the year was to get back to state. We’ve had some great senior leadership this year, and we’re happy they get to play a few more games this weekend. We had some guys in the gym before our season started and they really pushed the rest of our guys to get there. We didn’t plan on being in the gym in March and April, but the offseason paid some big dividends for us.”

Seth Villanpando leads the Tigers in hitting with a .541 average this year with 22 runs scored.

Fruitland, which beat Bonners Ferry in last year’s championship game, failed to qualify. Bonners Ferry (15-5) opens with Payette (22-3).

4A: Sandpoint (12-6), the Region 1 champion, opens the state 4A tournament at Melaleuca Field in Idaho Falls against Vallivue High of Caldwell (22-5) at 3 p.m.

The Bulldogs are at state for the first time since 2007.

Defending champion Twin Falls (20-6) opens with Middleton (12-16) in the first game today.

2A: Nampa Christian (16-8) opens defense of its state title against Challis/Mackay tonight at Nampa Christian High.

Grangeville (14-4), the District 1-2 champion, faces Declo (13-9) in today’s opening game.

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