It was a first for Bonners Ferry High School baseball and is certainly something to be celebrated. For the first time in the school’s history, this year’s varsity baseball team was crowned State champions.
“I don't think we had a weakness in this year’s team. The team batted an incredible .390 at State, and pitching and defense was phenomenal,” said Head Coach Tom Turpin. “The boys have played together for a long time, and we competed against teams bigger than us throughout the year to prepare us for this opportunity.”
Coach Turpin has coached 18 years for Bonners Ferry High School, starting in 2001 as an assistant and taking over the head coaching position in 2003. “We had 14 players in the varsity program and a total of 22 [players] this year—11 seniors, four juniors and the rest were sophomores and freshmen,” said Turpin.
With so many seniors, there was a lot of experience on the varsity team, and the fact they were able to win the state championship this year speaks to not just the amazing season this year but their hard work and dedication over the last several seasons. The team has won four straight Intermountain League titles along with two of the last three District I titles. They took third place in state in 2016 and second last year after losing the championship in what Turpin calls a heartbreaker of a game.
“I think the overall experience and determination of wanting to get back to the championship game this year was huge,” he said of one of the motivating factors for the team.
Turpin explains that the State Championship format is set up as a bracket and one must win all three games during the three-day period to win the State Championship.
“Our first opponent, Payette Pirates, was ranked No. 1 in 3A baseball rankings at the end of the season. We drew them the first game and had a 5-1 lead going into the last inning. In fact, our pitcher was throwing a no hitter until two infield singles in the seventh inning,” said Turpin. “We prevailed and ended up playing the Kimberly Bulldogs in game two and won a slugfest 19-12. We scored nine runs in the first inning, and they ended up tying the game in the fifth inning only to have us score eight runs in the seventh inning to break it open.”
Bonners Ferry played the Homedale Trojans, who were ranked No. 2 in the state, in the championship game.
“We had a 4-0 lead going into the final inning and won 4-2 for our very first State Championship in the 25-year history of Badger baseball. I don't think we ever thought we were going to lose a game, but there were tense moments throughout the weekend competing for the title. Being in this situation in the past, and particularly last year, I think helped us get through it. The boys competed incredibly,” said Coach Turpin.
As coach, it is Turpin’s job to encourage his players. Going into the game, he told the players that these are opportunities of a lifetime and to enjoy the moment and experience. He said, “Leave everything on the field and, if you do, you can’t feel bad about the outcome regardless.”
The captains for this year’s team were Brady Bateman and Chris Sabin, both of whom are four-year varsity starters. The pair was quick to thank their coaches, family and friends for all of the support they have shown over the years and were ecstatic to end their high school career as State champions.
Captain and shortstop, Chris Sabin, exclaimed, "I was so happy! It was an amazing feeling to realize that all of our hard work over the years had paid off. I am grateful that I got to play with such a great group of guys."
The sentiment was echoed by captain and catcher Brady Bateman. "I can't really put into words the feelings I had when we recorded our last out, and we were finally State champions. We came so close last year and to come back and win it this year was incredible. It was so emotional. We were so happy; it is something that I will never forget."
And they weren’t the only two who were grateful for all the encouragement. Coach Turpin expressed his gratitude to the many who supported him and his team.
“The overall community has embraced the boys throughout this journey which has been special for the boys. It has been an unbelievable year for Badger baseball and a great accomplishment for these players. They all deserve to be champions!” said Turpin.
He extended a special thanks to his assistant coaches, Chad Carle, Chris Sabin and Cal Bateman for making his job easier and taking the ride with him. And there are those who work behind the scenes each year to provide support. “Pam Turpin, Lisa Carle, Lori Sabin and Melissa Bateman, we coaches could not have done this without their support and encouragement!”
Congratulations to the Badger baseball team for an incredible season. Your community is extremely proud of you!