Idaho Falls, Idaho Post 56 relied on its defense Saturday afternoon to move to 2-0 in pool play, topping Shrewsbury, Mass., Post 397, 4-0.
Idaho sent its ace Randon Hostert to the hill coming off of a record-setting performance in regionals where he pitched the first-ever recorded back-to-back no hitters in national tournament play and ended the Northwest tournament with 13.0 innings pitched, 19 strikeouts and just three runners allowed.
While Hostert wasn’t as dominating Saturday as he had been previously, he still pitched 3.2 scoreless innings thanks, in large part, to his defense.
The Utah commit gave up his first hit of national tournament play with two outs in the first inning but quickly got out of the inning as a diving play by first baseman Jaxon Sorenson who flipped to Hostert covering for third out.
“I knew the second baseman wouldn’t be in the hole so I had to do anything to make sure the ball didn’t get through to allow the runner to get to third,” Sorenson said.
Massachusetts worked deep counts and played small ball in the second to load the bases with one out, but Hostert caught a popup and then induced a slow ground ball that third baseman Caden Christensen charged and made a slick play on to throw to first to get the final out, earning appreciation from Hostert on the way to the dugout.
On the other side, John West started for Massachusetts and pitched well. He got into trouble in the bottom of the second, hitting a batter and allowing a single, but made a nice play himself on a grounder up the middle to get a force and a flyout to right to settle down. With two outs, however, Kai Howell deposited a single into right field to bring home Andrew Gregerson and put Idaho on the board. Idaho doubled its lead two batters later on a catchers interference call which scored Sorenson.
Hostert got help from his defense again in the third when Brody Owens charged a tough grounder, throwing across his body to get a tough out and the offense took advantage in the bottom of the frame with some small ball to add to the lead. Tavyn Lords bunted his way on and stole second before a sacrifice bunt moved him to third and a Gregerson single on a 2-0 count brought him home.
That was enough for Idaho pitching as Hostert went back out for two more outs in the third but was removed at 60 pitches to ensure he could return on Tuesday if Idaho Falls makes it to the title game. Bruer Webster came on in relief and the deceptive submariner needed just one pitch to get out of the fourth.
Massachusetts got a leadoff double and moved the runner to third with one out in the fifth inning, but Webster got a groundout to third and another nice defensive play from Sorenson, now playing second base, to end the inning on a tough popup in foul ground in shallow right field.
“We’re very versatile on defense and it shows,” Sorenson said. “In a game like this where the offense slumps we need to get outs.”
In the bottom of the sixth, Idaho’s Alex Cortez singled and came around on some mistakes to score to make the lead 4-0, padding the lead.
Webster got one out easily in the seventh but struggled with his location, loading the bases without a hit forcing Sorenson into the game in relief.
With the tying run at the plate, Sorenson battled to a full before ultimately getting a popout to left field for the second out and a groundout to third to end the game, earning Sorenson the save.
“After those batters had seen high velocity I knew my offspeed would keep them off balance,” Sorenson said. “Being 2-0 is amazing. We just need to keep energy up.”
The game was the opening contest of USAA Military Appreciation Day at the ballpark.
Idaho moves to 2-0 in pool play and has North Carolina on Sunday night in the final game of pool play at 7 p.m. Massachusetts falls to 0-2 and faces North Dakota Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m.