Wednesday, July 18, 2012.
It was 13 summers ago that a bunch of Boise kids with bleached blond hair descended upon Williamsport, PA, for the Little League World Series. After that memorable trip, some of the South Central Boise team continued in baseball with varying degrees of success. Several of them starred on Borah High’s state championship team in 2005. One of them, Stephen Fife, went on to the University of Utah and was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2008. And last night, Fife made his big league debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was a dandy. He outpitched Roy Halladay in the Philadelphia star’s return from the disabled list, going six innings and allowing just one run on four hits. Fife left with a 2-1 lead and was in position for his first big league victory, but the L.A. bullpen couldn’t hold it, and he took a no-decision in a 3-2 Dodger loss.
Fife, who was traded to the Dodgers organization last year, was called up from Albuquerque as a fill-in starter for the injured Chad Billingsley, so he may be headed back down. Fife was deemed ready after going 4-2 with a 3.86 ERA over his last 10 starts for the Isotopes. Native-born Idahoans are rare in the majors, needless to say. As for native-born Boiseans? According to Baseball Almanac, Fife is only the third ever after Pat House, a former Boise Junior College pitcher, and Vance Law, son of former Pittsburgh star Vern Law. The city of Boise’s most famous major leaguer was Larry Jackson, who won 194 big league games in a 14-year career from 1955-68. Jackson graduated from Boise High and starred in both football and baseball at BJC for Lyle Smith. But Jackson was actually born in Nampa.
It’s been a tough go in the first half of the Northwest League season for the Boise Hawks. But hey—the Hawks are 3-2 against East Division-leading Yakima after beating the Bears for the second straight time last night, 5-0. James Pugliese got the victory, allowing just one hit and striking out five over the first five innings. Michael Heesch and Pete Levitt finished what would end up a three-hit shutout. Offensively, NWL Player of the Week Trey Martin shook off a one-night slump, going 3-for-3 with his third home run of the season. Willson Contreras and Rock Shoulders also had two-hit games for Boise.
It was a memorable night for Izaac Garsez, a native of Caldwell and a former College of Idaho star who was called up to Boise from Mesa in time for last night’s game. Garsez, drafted by the Cubs last month, got to make his debut before the home fans but was 0-for-4 at the plate. Garsez was hitting .273 with three triples, a home run, and eight RBI in 13 games in the Arizona Rookie League. He’s the fourth Treasure Valley native to play for Boise since the Hawks became an affiliate of the Cubs, joining Vallivue High's Pat McIntyre (2003), Capital High/Northwest Nazarene's Roger Evenson (2005), and Centennial High's Jordan Latham (2007 and 2010). Garsez is also the second C of I player to suit up for Boise—Bill Oliver played for the Hawks in 1998.
You knew in the first quarter of last September’s Boise State game against Georgia that freshman wide receiver Matt Miller had it going. Miller caught Kellen Moore’s first touchdown pass of his senior season and the 100th of his career to open the Broncos’ scoring in the 35-21 win over the Bulldogs in the Georgia Dome. Now, after setting the trifecta of Boise State freshman receiving records with 62 catches, 679 yards and nine touchdowns, Miller has been named to the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award. He’s the only sophomore among the 48 players getting the nod. It’s the Broncos’ fourth watch list mention—offensive guard Joe Kellogg has two (Outland, Rotary Lombardi), and linebacker J.C. Percy has the other (Lott IMPACT).
Percy’s diversion this week is captain’s duties for the defense in the fifth annual Bronco Football Summer Classic softball game Saturday night at Memorial Stadium. This battle against the offense has become a competitive little rendezvous. The First Tee of Idaho reveals that players have been asking for extra batting practice time this week. We’ll see how creatively the game is scored this year. Last July, it ended in a 16-16 tie after the Bronco offense earned eight runs for winning the pizza-eating contest. The defense will tell you the final score was 16-8.
ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg writes about Michigan State’s defense in his Big Ten blog this week. Lest anyone think Boise State’s main task is to stop the Spartan offense August 31, here are numbing numbers. MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi had given his unit two-page wristbands of plays to run last summer, worried that there would be a fall-off after All-America linebacker Greg Jones left. Well, Michigan State ranked in the top 10 nationally in total defense, rushing defense and scoring defense in 2011.
Narduzzi offered the wristbands again this summer. Linebacker Max Bullough said he and his teammates didn’t need them. "Our players know our defense,” Narduzzi told ESPN.com. “They understand the strengths and weaknesses of it. When your kids know the weakness of it, they can fix it themselves during the game. They don't need the coaches.” Added Narduzzi, “Coaches are overrated."
With 13 schools playing Big Sky football this year, Idaho State gets knocked further down the ladder in preseason polls. The Bengals are picked to finish 12th by the conference’s media and 11th by the coaches. ISU went 2-9 last year under Mike Kramer after back-to-back one-win seasons under John Zamberlin. With myriad problems engulfing the Montana Grizzlies during the offseason, there’s expected to be a change in the Big Sky hierarchy this fall. Montana State is the dominant choice to win the league title in both polls.
This Day In Sports…July 18, 2000:
On his 34th birthday, defending Olympic decathlon champion and former University of Idaho athlete Dan O’Brien withdraws from the US Olympic Trials due to a foot injury—ending his quest for back-to-back gold medals. O’Brien was the subject of a national Reebok advertising campaign leading up to the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona—but failed to qualify for the Games at the Olympic Trials. He redeemed himself at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta with a gold medal and had a legitimate shot at becoming the first athlete since Bob Mathias to repeat as a gold medalist in the decathlon.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)