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2022 Idaho Baseball Preview
A look at how high school baseball in Idaho will look this season
Published: 3/23/2022 8:10:47 AM
Brandon Baney
Content Manager/Broadcaster
brandon@idahosports.com

ORDER GAME PHOTOS

It's a story as old as time. As the spring sports season begins, teams in the Treasure Valley go about their business relatively unfazed by Mother Nature, accumulating several important competitions in the month of March. In turn, this leads to a sharper learning curve for just about every other team outside the warmer confines of District 3.

For example, it has snowed on three separate occasions in the past ten days in east Idaho, which has led to the usual flurry of canceled/postponed matchups. Similar stories have plagued teams in the Magic Valley and, to a lesser degree, up in north Idaho.

That said, one of the largest measuring sticks of the season approaches this weekend: the Buck's Bags Tournament, hosted by several Boise-area schools. This annual event will bring more than 30 teams to the Treasure Valley, and is used by many to gauge where Idaho's baseball hierarchy sits.

With the Buck's Bags Tournament serving as a backdrop, here's a rough preview of the teams and players to keep an eye on in Idaho this season.

CLASS 5A

In 2021, the Treasure Valley dominated at the 5A State Tournament. Timberline, Eagle, Rocky Mountain and Mountain View comprised the final four, with Timberline winning the 5A title over Eagle 12-4.

The Wolves are the favorite again in District 3, headlined by a trio of All-Conference pitchers (seniors Kailer Saunders and Garrett Miller, and junior Carter Walsh.) Miller will also spend time at second and third base, while Walsh can play both shortstop and in the outfield. Senior infielder Logan Miller is another All-Conference performer from a year ago.

After losing to Rocky Mountain twice by a combined score of 15-4, Eagle shocked the Grizzlies in the 5A semifinals a year ago, knocking out Rocky 4-3 in a tightly contested game. The Mustangs lost a lot to graduation, and will build around senior pitcher Vince Massa. Junior Hayden Chambers will be another key pitcher, and also helps on the infield, while sophomore catcher Cole Casagrande has great potential, as well.

Rocky Mountain was also beset by heavy graduation losses. A trio of seniors are back after earning All-Conference honors: pitcher/outfielder Luke Hines, outfielder Braden Lewis and infielder Conor Christiansen. Senior Eli Anderson and junior Peyton Hines will also key the Grizzlies attack this year.

Mountain View was the fourth Southern Idaho Conference team to make the 5A semifinals a year ago. They fell to Timberline and Rocky Mountain to ultimately finish fourth. Senior Brody Rasmussen and junior Jack Barker earned All-Conference accolades in the outfield a year ago, A young pitching staff will ultimately determine how far the Mavericks can go: the development of sophomores Conner Marshall, Evan
Perry and Will Grizzle will be key.

Kuna also qualified for state a year ago, and have two outstanding senior pitchers to build around in Nick Fontaine and Zac Rackham. Capital boasts a similarly one-two punch in the rotation with juniors Charlie Vega and Cooper Layne. Senior Kyle Schabot leads a Centennial team that has the potential to surprise this year as well.

But perhaps the most intriguing team in the SIC this year is Skyview. The Hawks went 17-9-1 a season ago, and return a young nucleus of All-Conference talent: sophomores Grayden Lucas (pitcher), Grady Daniels (first base) and Caden Yesford (infield) earned postseason honors last year as freshmen. Junior catcher Caden Tucker is back as well, and senior TerRyck Pennington will pitch and play the field.

In District 5-6, Idaho Falls and Highland dueled all year long in 2021. Highland won the regular season series 2-1, but the Tigers got revenge at districts, defeating the Rams twice by scores of 4-0 and 8-7 to advance to state.

Idaho Falls will have to replace a talented senior class that included Gatorade Player of the Year Jaxon Sorenson, Seniors Merit Jones and Eliot Jones will form the nucleus of this year's team after earning All-Conference honors a year ago at pitcher and designated hitter, respectively.

As for Highland, the Rams also suffered heavy graduation losses. Seniors Luke Davis and Colton Sneddon will lead Highland in 2022.

Up north in the Inland Empire League, Post Falls, Lewiston and Coeur d'Alene slugged it out all season long. The Vikings ended up winning the war of attrition at districts, defeating Lewiston 5-3 and Post Falls 5-4 to advance to state.

Junior pitcher and infielder Andrew Karns will lead the CDA attack in 2022. Junior outfielder Kyle Bridge and senior infielders Evan Mallory and Cooper Larson will also be key to the Vikings' fortunes this year.

Post Falls won the regular season title a year ago, but failed to advance to state. The Trojans are eager to show that they belong among the state's elite. Senior pitcher Tyson Rutherford is one of the best hurlers in the state, and fellow senior CD Sharples is a capable number two in the rotation. If the offense can match their pitching prowess, Post Falls will be tough to beat.

Lewiston lurks as a potential threat in District 1-2, as well. Seniors Quinton Edmison, Cruz Hepburn and Killian Fox, along with junior Chris Ricard, all earned postseason honors a year ago.

CLASS 4A

District 3 didn't quite dominate the 4A State Tournament like their 5A counterparts a year ago. While the 5A Southern Idaho Conference swept the final four slots on semifinal night, the 4A SIC merely advanced two teams beyond the first round. However, those two teams, Bishop Kelly and Columbia, did meet up for the championship.

The Knights won the 4A title with a 5-1 triumph over Columbia, and are the heavy favorites to repeat in 2022. A solid group of players, headlined by reigning Conference Player of the Year Caden Casagrande, return for a Bishop Kelly team that is undefeated thus far. Seniors Al Jones, Carter Vandenberg and Jack Hefner bolster the lineup, while senior Colin Dempsey and sophomore Cooper Cammann anchor the pitching staff.

Columbia scuffled their way to a 15-12 record a year ago, but caught fire at the right time, winning six of their final seven contests to finish second at state. Juniors Mario DeLeon, Caden Campa, Isaiah Capetillo and Isaac Antunes all earned postseason honors a year ago. It the Wildcats pitching staff rounds into form, they could be a tough out again this year.

Middleton entered districts with high hopes a year ago, but shocking back-to-back losses to Ridgevue and Vallivue ended the the Vikings' season early. Juniors Caden Recla and Robert Orloski are two of Middleton's best hitters, and senior Nathanael Warwick leads the pitching staff.

Both Ridgevue and Vallivue, the two teams that had a hand in sending Middleton home early last year, loom as dark horse teams in the SIC once again. The Warhawks have a trio of talented seniors to lean on in Luke Nelson, Isaac Mercer and Colton Bowman. Vallivue's strength, meanwhile, lies in its pitching, where seniors Zac Garner and Owen Bowers lead the way.

Joining Bishop Kelly and Columbia in the final four last year at state were Great Basin Conference rivals Twin Falls and Canyon Ridge. The two met up in the third place game, and the Bruins eked out a 2-1 win.

The Bruins fully intend on getting back to state again this year. Ben Tarchione, Wyatt Solosabal, Jace Mahlke and Luke Moon can all rake at the plate. The big question for Twin Falls involves their pitching.

As for Canyon Ridge, the Riverhawks will be led by seniors Alex Alcala and Gage Summerfield.

Over in eastern Idaho, Pocatello and Bonneville represented Districts 5 and 6, respectively, at state last year. The Thunder is once again favored
in the three-team South East Idaho Conference, although Preston has a game-changer in junior pitcher Chayse Oxborrow. Pocatello has better depth, though, with juniors Brody Birch and McCadden Evans leading the way at the plate, and senior Hunter Killian anchoring the pitching staff.

The High Country Conference was a wild ride in 2021, and could be once again this year. Top-seeded Skyline and second-seeded Blackfoot each lost best-of-three series to fourth-seeded Hillcrest and third-seeded Bonneville during district tournament play. Bonneville ended up sweeping Hillcrest to advance to state, and rode that momentum to a sixth place finish. Senior Dayton Robison and junior Crew Howell both return to the outfield for the Bees, and Robison will also be the number one pitcher in Bonneville's rotation.

Blackfoot and Skyline will both be out for revenge in 2022. Blackfoot senior Tyler Vance might be the best overall player in the league, and senior outfielder Ben Wilson is solid, as well. Skyline returns All-Conference infielders Chandler Robinson (senior) and Trey Olson (junior). The Grizzlies also boast a bevy of talented juniors like Caden Taggart, Lachlan Haacke and Ian Galbreaith. All three were vital to Skyline's run to the 4A football championship earlier this fall.

Up north, the Sandpoint Bulldogs represented District 1-2 at state in 2021. But the Bulldogs saw a lot of talented players depart, including Inland Empire League MVP Max Thiehlbar. Junior Jack Zimmerman (outfield), and seniors Ethan Butler (outfield/first base) and Auggie Lehman (utility) will key the Sandpoint offense. All three will also contribute on the mound, and junior Colin Roos also shows great potential as a pitcher.

CLASS 3A

Fruitland was the class of the Snake River Valley Conference a year ago, finishing with a perfect 10-0 record in the league in regular season play.

But the best team in the regular season doesn't always win the championship. In baseball, another team can get hot at the right time and finish as the champ.

That's exactly what happened for Weiser. The Wolverines knocked out defending champ Marsh Valley with a walkoff home run from Beau Shields in their State Tournament opener, then dispatched Kimberly in the semifinals to advance to an all-District 3 showdown with Fruitland for the championship. And, despite falling to the Grizzlies twice in the regular season, Weiser won the game that counted, and claimed the 3A championship with a 9-4 victory.

Needless to say, the battle between these two should be fascinating yet again in 2022. Weiser returns three senior standouts in catcher Jack Burke, infielder Brett Spencer and outfielder Willy Shirts. Fruitland welcomes back the SRV Player of the Year, junior Zane Bidwell, along with seniors Landon Mendive, David Juarez and Zachary Arnold.

Homedale also qualified for state a year ago, but went two-and-out with losses to Kimberly and Marsh Valley. Like Fruitland and Weiser, the Trojans bring back several noteworthy All-Conference performers: seniors Cody Liebschwager and Beeg Hockenhull, juniors Sigmund Goode and D'Orr Packer, and sophomore Dillon Fine.

Payette is another team capable of making noise in District 3. Juniors Cam Strong, Jaydin Morin and Luke Neill will lead the Pirates in 2022.

As for Marsh Valley, the Eagles have had an interesting three-year journey. After winning the championship in 2019, their 2020 title defense was cut short after just two games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their extended title defense in 2021 ended with the walkoff loss to Weiser in the opening round at state. However, Marsh Valley was able to win the consolation title over South Fremont.

The Eagles are loaded for bear again in 2022, and are hungry to get back to the championship round. Head coach Kent Howell has a talented trio to build around: pitchers/outfielders Payton Howe (senior) and Stanton Howell (junior), as well as senior catcher Karter Howell.

Snake River also earned a bid to state last year from District 5, and actually made it further than league rival Marsh Valley. The Panthers defeated Bonners Ferry in a wild opener 14-13, before falling to Fruitland in the semifinals and Kimberly in the third place game. Snake River will be led by senior Nate Goodwin this year.

The Kimberly Bulldogs came within an eyelash or two of playing for the 3A championship last year. Alas, they fell to Weiser 8-6 in the semifinals and had to settle for a third place win over Snake River. Kimberly looks like the favorite in District 4 again, with seniors Race Widmier, Jackson Cummins and Jordan Flameling all leading the way.

South Fremont emerged from District 6 last year, and ended up losing to Marsh Valley in the consolation final at state. The Cougars are chock full of multi-sport athletes that fans will recognize from other athletic endeavors: Kaimen Peebles, Easton Kerbs, Preston Stoddard, Easton Stoddard, Bryson Forbush, etc.

Up north in the Intermountain League, the Bonners Ferry Badgers reigned supreme in 2021, and are the favorites to do so again this year. Senior Bo Bateman is the reigning MVP of the IML, and junior All-Conference selections Teigan Banning and Blake Rice return as well.

CLASS 2A

The Nampa Christian Trojans reigned supreme in 2021, with a tight 4-3 win over Malad in the championship game. Behind an excellent effort on the mound from Carson Atwood, the Trojans kept a solid Dragons offense at bay. Atwood is back for Nampa Christian in 2022, along with fellow seniors Dane Bradshaw, Landon Cheney, Zack Mullins and Josh Tiersma.

While Nampa Christian will be the favorite in District 3, Melba won't be far behind. The Mustangs dropped their State Tournament opener to Grangeville last year in extra innings 2-1, and will be motivated to get back to state and deliver on their high expectations. Henry Clark seemed like Shohei Ohtani at times last year for the Mustangs, routinely delivering double digit strikeout totals on the mound, and mult-home run efforts at the plate. He has since graduated, but a solid nucleus returns, featuring seniors Trace Stimpson and Jeff Fahee, junior Parker Hansen and sophomore Diego Herrera.

Malad, last year's 2A runner-up, was decimated by graduation. A young Dragons program will have to accrue some on-the-job training this year, as the program features 17 freshmen and sophomores. Seniors Kyler Horsley and Bridger Bastian, along with junior Gaiden Combs, will bring the younger players along. The door could be cracked open for Bear Lake, loaded with talented athletes, to push for the District 5 crown this year.

The Grangeville Bulldogs won the Central Idaho League a year ago and represented District 1-2 at state. Grangeville came home with a third place finish, then said goodbye to one of the most talented senior classes in recent history. Blake Schoo, Gannon Garman, Tori Ebert, Dane Lindsley and Reece Wimer all graduated, leaving a huge void to fill.

The good news is, St. Maries and Orofino also lost talented players to graduation. In fact, St. Maries senior Dylan Larson is the only returning player in the entire league from last year's All-CIL team.

Declo defeated Wendell in the two-team Canyon Conference a year ago, and ended up finishing fourth at state. The Hornets are favored to repeat, with seniors Keegan Ramsey, Kaden Ramsey, Dalton Powell, Tregan Zollinger and Keegan Darrington forming a solid nucleus.

Firth emerged from a quality Nuclear Conference last year, and won the consolation title at state. Gage Vasquez, Sam Park and Burton Park are all great athletes, and Cooper Leslie shows promise on the pitching mound. The Challis-Mackay co-op, North Fremont and Salmon will all be angling to knock Firth off their perch, and the conference could be even more unpredictable this year.

CLASS 1A

1A fans around the state agree: until someone actually knocks off a team from the Whitepine League, the teams up north will continue to be given the benefit of the doubt. Last year, fans from western Idaho thought that District 2's stranglehold on postseason success would finally end, as first-year program North Star Charter ran roughshod through their regular season and district tournament schedule.

But the Huskies lost to Genesee in the 1A state championship game, and thus the north's dominance continued. Naturally, as a first-year program, North Star Charter had a young squad a year ago. With so many talented players returning, they are once again the favorites in District 3. Senior catcher Josh Ineck, junior outfielder Dustin Ables, junior utility man Daniel Kormylo, sophomore infielders Evan Mixson and Johnny Szekeres are all back after earning All-Conference honors a year ago. Kormylo is also the ace of the pitching staff, with Ables, Mixson and Szekeres forming a solid four-man rotation.

Along with North Star Charter, Glenns Ferry and Horseshoe Bend also qualified for state last year from the Western Idaho Conference. The Pilots return their top battery of senior pitcher Nick Hernadez and senior catcher Wyatt Castagneto. Castagneto also pitches, and junior Parker Martinez adds further depth to the rotation, along with playing on the infield.

Horseshoe Bend looks steady again this year, as well. Senior infielder Decker Larson and senior outfielder Bennett Thurman both earned All-Conference honors a year ago, as did sophomore outfielder Kaelun Jones. All three also pitch for the Mustangs. Another exciting factor for Horseshoe Bend is the return of 6-foot-4, 240 pound first baseman Karson Krosch. The standout slugger suffered a season-ending injury last year, but is back and healthy for his senior season.

Meanwhile, the Whitepine League has no shortage of quality teams. Not only will it be difficult for Genesee to repeat as 1A state champs, it will be hard for the Bulldogs to get back to state period. That's not a reflection of where Genesee is as a program. On the contrary, the Bulldogs will be quite good in 2022. Unfortunately, so will many others up north. Such is life in the Whitepine League.

Senior Jack Johnson was on the mound for the championship victory for Genesee a year ago, and could be the top pitcher in the league in 2022...or perhaps fellow senior Cameron Meyer will lay claim to the title of best pitcher. It's a nice problem to have. Offensively, the Wareham brothers are back to wreak havoc at the top of the lineup and on the basepaths. Cy Wareham is a senior and will pitch occasionally as well. Teak Wareham is a sophomore and can play anywhere on the field.

The team most poised to knock out Genesee is traditional power Prairie. The Pirates took third at state a year ago, and several talented starters from that team return, including Chase Kaschmitter, Reece Shears and Colton McElroy.

The Kamiah Kubs qualified for state for the first time since 2002 last year. Willis Williamson is one of the best catchers around, and Herschel Williamson and Brady McLay also return to anchor the lineup. Other challengers up north this year include Kendrick, Lapwai, Potlatch and Troy. Basically, any team in the league is capable of grabbing one of the three state tournament bids available.

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