The Loggers leave a lasting impact with seventh state baseball championship

May 22—Close regular-season games, solid defense, and late-game heroics defined the Potlatch Loggers' seventh state baseball championship victory.

"We had a lot of close games this year that we came out on top of," Potlatch coach Trent Baysinger said. "Whereas last year we were on the other end of those close games, I feel fortunate that we were in those games this year, so when we went down to State, the guys weren't shocked."

The Loggers finished the regular season strong, winning nine of their last 10 games.

Despite Potlatch's strong regular-season performance that secured the No. 2 seed at an Idaho Class 1A district tournament in Orofino, its run ended in disappointment.

The Loggers were winless at the tournament, losing to Troy and Clearwater Valley of Kooskia. But because Potlatch qualified for Districts, it earned a state tournament berth.

"I was pretty disappointed in the results," Baysinger said. "But Josh (Bradley) is a great coach at Clearwater Valley, Tyler (Strunk) is a good coach at Troy and Kyle (Jones) is a good coach at Kendrick. All four programs were right there. I think if you were to ask any of the coaches at the beginning of the season (who was going to win Districts), it's kind of a coin flip."

The Loggers bounced back from their poor performance with two of their strongest showings of the season at the state tournament, ultimately clinching their seventh championship banner.

Potlatch started its redemption tour with a 4-2 win over the Trojans in a semifinal game on Thursday that was never really in question.

The Loggers dashed Troy's bid to win a third consecutive Class 1A state championship, a feat last accomplished by Potlatch (2011-13).

The Trojans entered the semifinal matchup with a 2-1 series lead over Potlatch. The Loggers' only win against Troy was a 6-4 victory in extra innings on April 16 at Clearwater Field in Lewiston.

However, with the results on the field, no one could've guessed that the Loggers were the underdogs.

Potlatch's dominant pitching and defense propelled it to a 3-0 lead, an edge it maintained by holding the Trojans scoreless for six innings. The team's tremendous effort on the mound and in the field ultimately secured the victory.

After besting the Trojans, the Loggers advanced to the championship game against top-seeded Kendrick, a team they split with during the regular season.

Senior pitcher Jack Clark delivered a dominant complete-game performance, recording 10 strikeouts as Potlatch cruised to a 10-2 victory over Kendrick.

The senior hurler baffled the Tigers with his deceptive off-speed pitches and blazing fastball, which whizzed past batters. In the championship game, he limited Kendrick, the Whitepine League's hits leader, to just six knocks.

"We didn't get to utilize (Clark) as much as we would've liked at the end (of the season) because he had a sore arm," Baysinger said. "But he's a competitor. I thought he was a good choice to throw in the championship game, and he proved me right. I'm really proud of him."

Sophomore Jameson Morris also had a gem of a performance against the Trojans in the semifinals. He allowed no earned runs on three hits and struck out nine batters.

As Morris delivered his final pitch, the Loggers recorded the game's last out.

Clark delivered a timely throw to first baseman Brenton Breeze to beat the red-hot Trojans.

"I just knew he could perform well," Baysinger said. "And he'd give us a chance to beat Troy. ... He's probably going to be our top starter next year."

Morris also stepped up big in Potlatch's 9-8 opening-round victory over Glenns Ferry.

The Loggers gave up six runs in a disastrous fifth inning, allowing the Pilots to tie the game at 8-8.

Morris took the mound in the bottom of the sixth inning and pitched two scoreless innings.

A wild pitch from Glenns Ferry's Jesus Ortiz allowed Tyson Chambers to score the game-winning run in the top of the seventh, paving the road for the Loggers' championship victory.

"I was very nervous during that game," Baysinger said. "Jameson came in and pitched very well to close it out, and the boys responded well on the offensive side of things, but that was one game I was nervous about at third base."

Pixley may be contacted at (208) 848-2290, or on Twitter @TreebTalks