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3A SRV Ready to Take Center Field
The Snake River Valley Conference houses plenty of baseball powerhouses as spring gets underway
Published: 3/13/2020 4:59:44 PM

When it comes to baseball in the 3A classification, the Snake River Valley Conference in District III has been dynamic. 

Dating back to 2011, the conference has never failed to produce a trophy at the state tournament. In seven of those years, the conference earned two trophies and in 2011 and 2016, the 3A title game featured two SRV teams. 

Fruitland has won five state titles during that time, Homedale and Payette have each finished second twice, Emmett won the consolation trophy as a 3A program in 2015 and Weiser earned the consolation trophy last spring.

In 2019, Homedale rolled through the SRV with a perfect 8-0 league record en route to a district title, producing the conference’s player of the year (Drew Deal) and coach of the year (Burke Deal) along with four first-team all-conference players.

But the 2020 version of the SRV feels a little bit different. There doesn’t seem to be one team wearing the label of “favorite.”

“This is probably the most balanced I’ve seen it,” said Payette head coach Tracy Bratcher. “In my 16 years, there’s always been a team that is well above.”

Each of the conference’s teams returns multiple all-conference players. Bratcher brings back second-teamers Kodee Bennett and Deano Rodriguez.  Weiser head coach Bowe von Brethorst brings back first-teamers Kooper von Brethorst and Brett Spencer along with second-teamers Jarrett Mink and Tyler Pope. 

“Weiser will be tough,” said Fruitland head coach Troy Bidwell. “And Coach Bratcher does  a great job at Payette.”

Fruitland returns Sid McHenry, Brennan Fitzsimmonds, Nick Nunez, and Ben Shurtleff. Homedale has Karsen Freelove, Tommy Muir, and Brady Trout.  

“Fruitland, there’s always Fruitland,” von Brethorst said. “And Parma is a dark-horse. They’re good.”

Parma, in year three of a program re-build under head coach Pete Powers, returns three first-team all-conference performers in Stetson Beus, Kyle Powers, and Hunter Simpson, along with second-teamer Jed Simpson.

“We have twelve of the 15 ‘rostered’ kids for state coming back this spring,” von Brethorst said of his Weiser squad. “The expectation is to play good baseball. Expectations are high.”

One of the keys to the league’s strong play is geography. Though the schools lie along the Idaho/Oregon border, the proximity to the 5A/4A Southern Idaho Conference make pre-season scheduling a positive.

“We have 4A, 5A schools around us,” Bratcher said. “I want to play those teams. You can make your schedule as tough as you want. There’s opportunity to get quality games all spring.”

Weiser opened its season this week with a win over 4A Caldwell. Payette opened against 4A Ridgevue. Parma faces 4A Mountain Home, 5A Meridian, and 4A Emmett before opening conference play. Homedale started with a doubleheader against Emmett. Fruitland plays 4A foes Bishop Kelly and Wood River on the same day this weekend.

“It’s an awesome advantage,” said Bidwell, who is in his first year as the head coach at Fruitland after several seasons working with long-time head man Russ Wright. “That’s who we want to be challenged by. You want to play better teams early in the season.” 

With the 3A state tournament essentially right across the street at Ontario’s Treasure Valley Community College, the SRV’s trend of bringing home hardware will likely continue in 2020.

 “The years that we don’t make the state tournament, I become an SRV fan, even though it’s sometimes tough to root for your rival,” Bratcher said. “I want us to be represented by the best two teams in the conference and I want them to perform well.”


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