Peninsula Daily News
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Wilder Baseball has opened the Senior Babe Ruth Pacific Northwest Regional tournament on a tear.
Its most recent victims were the Spirit Lake Buzz, the Idaho state champions, in an 11-1 blowout in five innings at Vern Kindsfather Field on Wednesday.
Wilder starter Travis Paynter shut down Spirit Lake for four innings, striking out nine and holding the Buzz hitless before being relieved by James Grubb prior to the fifth inning.
“It was [hard], but he understood the bigger goal,” Wilder coach Mike Politika said of pulling Paynter during a no-hit bid.
“We had a decent lead and wanted to save his pitch count for the weekend.”
And with the win over Spirit Lake, Wilder has guaranteed itself a spot in Saturday’s semifinals.
Politika also pulled ace Nick Johnston in Tuesday’s win over Granite Construction in order to preserve his arm for Saturday’s game — or games, should Wilder win Saturday morning and reach the championship game later that evening.
In addition to saving Paynter, Politika said he wanted Grubb to get some regionals experience in case he too is needed Saturday.
Grubb fanned two, walked one and allowed one hit and an unearned run.
Wilder’s offense scored in each inning: twice in the first, once in the second, twice in the third and once in the fourth before putting up five runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Brady Konopaski scored the game-ending run with one out in the fifth, coming home on an error committed on a grounder hit by Tanner Gochnour.
Tanner Rhodefer continued his stellar tournament with a 3 for 3 performance at the plate, while Gochnour and Larsson Chapman had two hits apiece.
Konopaski, Brett Wright, Ryan Mudd and Dusty Bates also had hits for Wilder.
All three of Wilder’s regional games have ended early due to the mercy rule.
The area team beat Gillette Energy of Wyoming 10-0 in six innings Monday, and Granite Construction 12-2 in five innings Tuesday.
Despite the high run totals, Politika said pitching has been the key to Wilder’s early tournament dominance.
“We’ve limited our walks,” he said. “One of our pitching challenges this year has been walks. We’ve pitched well, but we’ve walked too many.
“Another things is we have pitched ahead in counts. We’ve been throwing first-pitch strikes.”
After a day off Thursday, Wilder (24-6) plays its biggest game of the tournament today, facing the Calgary Blues for first place in the National Division.
The winner will play the American Division’s No. 2 team Saturday at 12:15 p.m., while the loser will face the top American Division team at 9:30 a.m.
The championship game is Saturday at 5 p.m.