The Nampa Christian baseball team hit a crossroads in early April this season.
It came following a home loss to McCall-Donnelly, a team the Trojans had been able to handle easily in recent seasons.
The three-time defending state champions had gotten out to a 4-5 record. The team chemistry was rattled. So after coach Marc Harris talked with the team postgame, senior captains Tyler Black and Jack Castledine called for a players-only meeting by the outfield fence at Marc Harris Field.
“We were talking about what needed to change,” Black said. “Jack and I thought the main thing we needed to work on was team unity. We hadn't played as a team and we weren't trusting each other. We talked through that as a team for an hour, how we needed to play for each other and play for God.”
Trojan players spent a while along that fence, hashing out issues, and clearing up any infighting that had been going on amongst the team.
“It was a really positive outcome,” Castledine said. “We talked about team chemistry, talk about what happened in the past. It was great to reevaluate and start fresh in a way.”
The turnaround was not immediate, as Nampa Christian lost its next game to Cole Valley Christian, another team the Trojans were used to beating, to fall into a three-game hole.
“We lost to Cole Valley within a week and it was like 'maybe the magic's gone,'” Harris said.
But despite Harris' worries, the Trojans were able to get things together and rattled off wins in their next eight games and didn't lose to a 2A opponent for the remainder of the season as Nampa Christian won its fourth straight 2A state title.
For their ability to turn the season around and become the first high school baseball team at the 2A level in Idaho to win four years in a row, the Trojans' baseball team is the Idaho Press' Sports Stars Boys Spring Team of the Year.
“It's been an extremely humbling thing to be a part of,” Castledine said. “Winning that first one was just as fun as winning this last one a couple of weeks ago. It's humbling to know that I was a part of history and I played all four years.”
After the loss to Cole Valley, the Trojans bounced back with a 5-4 win against New Plymouth. But it wasn't until the following weekend, the Glenns Ferry Wooden Bat Tournament, where Harris really started to see things come together.
Dominant wins against Soda Springs, West Jefferson and Wendell helped get the Trojans back above a .500 record and reinvigorated their season.
“That seems to energize us every year,” Harris said. “We came out of that tournament having won three. The guys were like 'yeah, this is the second half of our season.”
Everything all came together at the state tournament, hosted by Nampa Christian, when three strong pitching performances on three consecutive days helped secure the title.
Matt Tiersma started things in a 6-1 win against Chalis/Mackey, allowing two hits over 5 1/3 inning, with Joe Ihli pitching the final five outs, striking out four. Ihli was back on the mound the following day, striking out 13 in six innings in a 5-1 win over Cole Valley Christian. Luke Tuttle, who pitched the final inning of the semifinal game, pitched a one-hitter against Grangeville in the championship, an 11-1 game won by the Trojans in six innings.
“I was amazed,” Black said about the pitching performance. “On that Thursday, when Matthew threw so incredibly well when we needed him to, we really needed him to throw well so we could save Joe and Luke for the next couple of days.”