Shawn Humberger admits having butterflies in anticipation of the game.
The College of Idaho wasn’t playing for a title or to climb in the standings, but the butterflies were there as Humberger’s baseball team prepared for the short drive to Nampa to play Northwest Nazarene.
“I was nervous all day, I was excited,” he said. “We haven’t played forever. You kind of let the rivalry die but you don’t forget how it’s been a long-standing rivalry.”
Renewing the Canyon County rivalry, which dates back to 1937, the Coyotes won Tuesday’s battle 5-1 as the teams squared off for the first time since 2007 at Elmore Vail Field on the NNU campus.
Zachary Fabricius was the star of the day as he dominated the Crusader lineup from the pitching mound, striking out six and scattering four hits in eight innings work.
“What do you say about Zach? He threw the ball well,” Humberger said. “Commanded the strike zone and that’s what pitching’s all about.
“He commanded his fastball and mixed in his breaking ball, and makes it tough to hit when you’re moving the ball in and out and up and down with your fastball.”
Fabricius (3-0) passed the credit around, though.
“I was just feeling it and I had a great defense behind me today,” he said, “made a lot of really nice plays for me.
“When those guys are behind me I just feel really comfortable and it makes my job a lot easier.”
And, an early lead helped, too. The C of I (13-4) started the game with four straight singles, including an RBI base hit to left-center by Izaac Garsez.
The only problem was Todd Griffiths was caught off second base on Garsez’s base hit for the first out, then Garsez was thrown out trying to steal, stalling what could have been a bigger rally.
“That first inning could have been a difference maker, you should get two, three runs that first inning,” Humberger said. “It didn’t hurt us, but it’s definitely something we talked about.”
Escaping a potentially worse threat down 1-0 should have brought NNU (10-4) to life, but Fabricius retired the Crusaders in order, part of a run that saw one NNU hitter reach base in the first six innings.
“We didn’t do really anything to be in the ballgame today,” NNU coach Tim Onofrei said. “No excuses, one team showed up and wanted to win today and we just wore the uniform and showed up.”
The team that wanted to win was the Yotes, who got an RBI single from Garsez in the third, then hung on with a great defensive play by third baseman Jeffrey Harris on a drag bunt in the seventh to silenced a threat.
NNU got on the board with a first-pitch homer to left-center by Zach Steele in the eighth, then tried to rally, but Fabricius’ sixth strikeout followed by a fly-out to right ended the inning.
The Yotes then iced it with three in the ninth, highlighted by a two-out, two-run double by freshman catcher Cameron Packham.
“He came up with a huge hit there in the end,” Humberger said, “... and if we’re not playing, honestly, NCAA rules I’m pinch-hitting for him right there.”