BASEBALL ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Cody Balle, Skyview

Cody Balle was almost cut from the Skyview baseball team his freshman year.

It’s a good thing the coaches decided against doing so. Balle ended up being one of the cornerstones of the program and saved his best for last in 2017.

The senior guided Skyview to a 20-plus win season, a fourth-place finish at the state tournament and was the 4A Southern Idaho Conference Co-Player of the Year. For these accomplishments, Balle is the 2016-17 Idaho Press-Tribune’s Sports Stars Baseball Athlete of the Year.

“I actually didn’t even know I was almost cut until one of the coaches told me during my sophomore year,” Balle said with a laugh. “I obviously proved a lot over the last few years. The faith that my coaches had in me this whole time meant a lot. So being able to prove them right is what’s pushed me on.”

Instead of getting cut freshman year, Balle made an early impression on Skyview head coach Ryan Bobo during a junior varsity game. While sprinting home, Balle realized he wasn’t going to beat the throw to the plate. So he stopped full speed to avoid the catcher’s glove and scored a decisive run.

“He was the ultimate competitor,” Bobo said. “It didn’t take me long to realize the talent I had with him. He played the game hard, the right way and made plays when we needed them the most.

“Growing up in Little League, he was always that kid that was overlooked a little bit for whatever reason. I don’t know if he had a lot of confidence coming in, but he had a lot of skills and a lot of heart and I wasn’t going to pass on that.”

Balle came into this season with the task of returning Skyview to prominence following a disappointing 2016. The Hawks not only saw their three-year run as 4A District III champions come to an end, but missed the state tournament entirely for the first time in six years.

With Balle leading the way, Skyview did just that. The Hawks won their first 11 games of the season on their way to claiming the 4A SIC regular season title and the No. 1 seed at the 4A District III Tournament.

But unlike last season when Balle and company dropped back-to-back games after reaching the districts semifinals, Skyview flew through this year’s district tournament. Balle made sure of it.

Balle fanned five batters on the mound to pick up the win in a 11-4 first round victory over Emmett. He followed that up with a key hit in a 3-0 victory over Vallivue in the semifinals to put the Hawks in the district championship game thus returning them to the state tournament after a one-year absence.

Balle then capped Skyview’s three-run comeback in the district title game, adding an insurance run on a single to right field in a 5-3 win over Middleton. His pivotal hit gave the Hawks their fourth district championship in five years.

Balle’s play was one of the main reasons the Hawks (24-5) were one of the favorites to come away with their first state championship in program history. Things certainly started out that way as Skyview blanked Jerome 12-0 in five innings in the opening round of state.

The Hawks again looked the part in the semifinals against Idaho Falls. They led 7-3 in the fifth inning.

But fate wasn’t on their side. Despite a pair of hits by Balle, including a double, the Tigers rallied back to tie the game in the sixth, and won the game 9-8 on a walk-off single in the seventh. Up 8-7 in the bottom of seventh, the Hawks walked four straight batters to set the stage for the walk-off single to center field.

Skyview then proceeded to lose another heartbreaker in the third-place game. The Hawks fell 8-7 to Skyline in spite of Balle going 2 for 4 with a home run and a game-high three RBIs.

“Those were definitely two of the toughest losses I’ve ever been a part of,” Balle said. “We made mistakes and they were able to capitalize on them.

“While we didn’t accomplish our goal and it was a little bit of a letdown, we still went 24-5, and to me, that’s still a successful season and one I was more than proud to be a part of.”

The gut-wrenching losses were the last games of Balle’s career. He’s elected not to play baseball in college to focus on school instead. Balle will attend the College of Western Idaho in the fall with the intent of being a police officer one day.

Balle ended his career on a high note. He batted .333 with 12 RBIs and two home runs. On the mound, Balle went 7-1 with 40 strikeouts and a ERA of 2.20.

“Without Cody, I can firmly say we wouldn’t have made it as far as we did,” Skyview pitching coach Joel Nowlin said. “When you have somebody like Cody, who as far as I’m concerned, played the best shortstop in the entire league easily this season, your team is just set.

“He saved our butts a million times. And to have him as a 1-2 starter on the mound, always pitching into the fifth, six and sometimes seventh innings was just huge.”

For his career, he recorded three straight 4A SIC All-League selections. Not bad for someone who was nearly never a part of the team to begin with.

“My time here was amazing. I couldn’t be happier with the four years I got to be a part of this program,” Balle said. “The coaching staff was great and they saw something in me. They taught me to not only be a better player, but a better person. I can’t thank them enough for that.”

ALL-CONFERENCE LISTS

Note: All-League teams are chosen by coaches.

5A SOUTHERN IDAHO CONFERENCE

Co-Players of the Year: Ethan Christianson, jr., P, Rocky Mountain; Coby Roberts, sr., 1B, Capital

Coach of the Year: Wes McAllaster, Borah

FIRST TEAM

Spencer Schwehr, jr., P, Borah; Logan Petet, jr., P, Centennial; Gabe Hughes, so., P, Rocky Mountain; Boden Mills, sr., P, Mountain View; Alex Guerrero, jr., C, Eagle; Chase Nett, so., 1B, Borah; Mitch Dean, sr., INF, Capital; Chad Martin, sr., INF, Centennial; Tyler Hollow, sr., INF, Rocky Mountain; Christian Padilla, sr., INF, Eagle; Ryan Hansen, sr., OF, Rocky Mountain; Nick Romano, so., OF, Rocky Mountain; Charles Alandt, jr., OF, Mountain View; Jordan Godeny-Scott, jr., OF, Capital; Kase Ogata, jr., DH, Rocky Mountain; Nolan Walker, sr., UTIL, Rocky Mountain

SECOND TEAM

Drew Zmuda, sr., P, Capital; Ethan Horner, so., P, Capital; Connor Larson, sr., P, Borah; Max Nichols, sr., P, Eagle; Kaden Hollow, so., C, Rocky Mountain; Parker Schwers, jr., 1B, Eagle; Braden Ray, sr., INF, Columbia; Bryson Moorhouse, sr., INF, Rocky Mountain; Jon Milner, so., INF, Mountain View; Heyden Stark-Kenison, jr., INF, Meridian; Riley Harrison, so., OF, Mountain View; Max Nichols, sr., OF, Eagle; Sam Loomis, sr., OF, Borah; Grayson Sterling, jr., OF, Capital; Tomas Vizgirdas, jr., DH, Timberline; Carson Smith, so., UTIL, Mountain View

HONORABLE MENTION

Jordan Forrester, jr., P, Columbia; Colton Makinster, sr., P, Columbia; David Litzenberger, jr., P, Capital; Sebastian Elu, sr., P, Timberline; Trace Ogata, sr., P, Centennial; Jonas Plew, fr., P, Nampa; Jaydon Yancey, jr., P, Mountain View; Nate Ball, sr., P, Kuna; Summit Nell, jr., P, Kuna; Reed Harrington, sr., P, Eagle; Camden Elliott, sr., P, Meridian; Joe Sullivan, sr., P, Timberline; Evan Massie, jr., P, Boise; Zach Britt, sr., C, Centennial; Jeff Davidson, jr., C, Nampa; Tanner McGrath, sr., C, Mountain View; Ross Blattner, sr., C, Kuna; Axel Mickelson, jr., C, Boise; Tyler Gossman, sr., 1B, Kuna; Tristan Newell, sr., INF, Capital; Caleb Carlson, jr., INF, Nampa; Austin Murphy, jr., INF, Eagle; Phoenix Hanneman, sr., INF, Meridian; Connor Riddle, jr., OF, Timberline; Justin Palmer, sr., OF, Borah; Alex Bernal, so., OF, Nampa; Joey Imbriani, sr., OF, Boise; Ben Haws, jr., OF, Kuna; Bryson Kennedy, sr., OF, Eagle; Joe Yrazabal, jr., OF, Meridian; Owen Viano, so., DH, Centennial; Reed Harrington, sr., DH, Eagle; Jayden Miller, sr., UTIL, Borah; Alex Salsman, sr., UTIL, Centennial; Chad Martin, sr., UTIL, Centennial; Payton Hamilton, jr., UTIL, Capital; Garrett Turner, sr., UTIL, Columbia; Tyler Best, jr., UTIL, Eagle

4A SOUTHERN IDAHO CONFERENCE

Co-Players of the Year: Trevor Lara, sr., P/SS, Middleton; Cody Balle, sr., P/SS, Skyview

Coach of the Year: Ryan Bobo, Skyview

FIRST TEAM

Hayden Smith, jr., P, Middleton; Jayson Hibbard, jr., P, Skyview; Dyson Scott, jr., P, Caldwell; Zach Gipson, sr., P, Vallivue; Cobe Lehman, so., C, Vallivue; Auggie Valdez, sr., 1B, Vallivue; Josh Vaughan, sr., INF, Bishop Kelly; Gabe Childs, jr., INF, Vallivue; Julian Musuca, so., UTIL, Skyview; Curran Price, sr., UTIL, Mountain Home; Harris Villanueva, sr., OF, Skyview; Kade Linder, sr., OF, Ridgevue; Conor Callanan, sr., OF, Bishop Kelly; Shane Robison, sr., OF, Emmett; Conner Berry, fr., DH, Mountain Home

SECOND TEAM

Bryson Vaughn, so., P, Skyview; Connor Butler, jr., P, Bishop Kelly; Kyle Adams, sr., P, Bishop Kelly; Auggie Valdez, sr., P, Vallivue; Braydon Mitchell, sr., C, Middleton; Tobey Summers, sr., 1B, Ridgevue; Bryson Vauhgn, so., INF, Skyview; Hayden Tena, sr., UTIL, Ridgevue; Ben Ranieri, sr., OF, Bishop Kelly; Connor Butler, jr., OF, Bishop Kelly; Blake Chainey, sr., OF, Middleton; Dylan Shields, sr., OF, Caldwell; Brody Babneau, so., DH, Skyview

HONORABLE MENTION

Josh Hess, jr., P, Bishop Kelly; Tobey Summers, sr., P, Ridgevue; Jace Bennett, sr., P, Mountain Home; Conner Gibson, jr., P, Emmett; Jake Daniel, jr., P, Vallivue; Henry Tentinger, sr., 1B, Middleton; Moises Rascon, sr., 1B/DH, Vallivue; Caden Centers, sr., 1B, Bishop Kelly; Jared Baltzer, jr., INF, Middleton; Dylan Catalano, jr., INF, Bishop Kelly; Jake Bernal, sr., OF, Skyview; Lan Larison, fr., OF, Vallivue; Jake Daniel, jr., OF, Vallivue; Auggie Valdez, sr., DH, Vallivue

3A SNAKE RIVER VALLEY CONFERENCE

Player of the Year: Casey Rodriguez, sr., P/CF, Fruitland

Coach of the Year: Tracy Bratcher, Payette

FIRST TEAM

Jake Deal, sr., Homedale; Ben Lee, jr., Homedale; Drew Deal, so., Homedale; Bryant Gerdes, jr., Payette; Kapen Burke, sr., Payette; Christopher Walker, jr., Payette; Gabe Lopez, jr., Payette; Mason Rynearson, jr., Payette; AJ Wagenmann, sr., Fruitland; Zane Jerman, sr., Fruitland; Zack Flannery, so., Fruitland; Sid McHenry, fr., Fruitland; Elijah Hultman, so., Parma; Payton Pinz, sr., Parma

SECOND TEAM

Stetson Beus, fr., Parma; Theresa Moyle, sr., Weiser; Austin Stricker, jr., Payette; Mat Murphy, sr., Fruitland; Isaac Larsen, sr., Fruitland; Zack Jerman, jr., Fruitland; Drew Taylor, sr., Homedale; Jaylon Hilton, jr., Homedale; Bryce Marshall, so., Payette; Kyle Powers, fr., Parma; Jacob Godina, sr., Parma; Dalton Turrentine, jr., Weiser

HONORABLE MENTION

Jesse Packer, jr., Homedale; Wyatt Wolf, jr., Homedale; Zach Adams, fr., Fruitland; Dylan Erlebach, sr., Weiser; Brody von Brethorst, so., Weiser; Jaren Mease, jr., Homedale

2A WESTERN IDAHO CONFERENCE

MVP: Cameron Goetz, jr., P/3B, Melba

Coach of the Year: Jeff Sessions, Melba

FIRST TEAM

Eli Bangerter, sr., Melba; Tim Reinertson, so., Melba; Lex King, sr., Nampa Christian; Nick Tuttle, sr., Nampa Christian; Brandon Mullins, sr., Nampa Christian; Riley Harris, sr., New Plymouth; Jake Wilson, sr., New Plymouth; Dwight Sevy, so., Marsing; Clay King, sr., Marsing; Nathan Wetzel, so., Cole Valley Christian

SECOND TEAM

Tristen Stimpson, jr., Melba; Koby Phillips, jr., Melba; Tyler McConnell, sr., Nampa Christian; Luke Tuttle, so., Nampa Christian; Connor Buck, sr., New Plymouth; Tyler Wood, jr., Marsing; Brian Purtell, jr., Marsing; Miguel Rodriguez, sr., McCall-Donnelly; Noah Owens, fr., Cole Valley Christian; Blake Moser, so., Cole Valley Christian

HONORABLE MENTION

Dillon Bodily, fr., Melba; Joe Ihli, fr., Nampa Christian; Isiah Prado, fr., Marsing; Stockton Raines, so., McCall-Donnelly; Keaton Hoiosen, fr., Cole Valley Christian

1A WESTERN IDAHO CONFERENCE

Player of the Year: Kody Arellano, sr., P/SS, Glenns Ferry

Coach of the Year: Denis Uhl, Glenns Ferry

FIRST TEAM

Tanner Martinez, fr., P, Glenns Ferry; Oscar Puga, jr., P, Wilder; Caulen Michael, sr., C, Wilder; Angelo Koslosky, so., INF, Horseshoe Bend; Tyler Brown, sr., INF, Glenns Ferry; Anthony Ortivez, fr., INF, Wilder; Carson Grigg, so., INF, Glenns Ferry; Ismael Cortez, so., INF, Wilder; Erick Ballesteros, sr., OF, Glenns Ferry; Ezequiel Vargas, jr., OF, Wilder; Brady Turner, sr., OF, Glenns Ferry; Oscar Villavicencio, so., UTIL, Glenns Ferry; Colter Elliott, sr., UTIL, Horseshoe Bend

SECOND TEAM

Levi Nanney, so., P, Rimrock; Ethan Smith, fr., P, Horseshoe Bend; Keyton Cook, jr., C, Glenns Ferry; Isaac Guerrero, sr., INF, Glenns Ferry; Jacob Albor, sr., INF, Wilder; Mike Farrar, so., INF, Horseshoe Bend; Anthony Herrera, so., OF, Rimrock; Oscar Sanchez, so., OF, Glenns Ferry; Diego Gutierrez, jr., UTIL, Glenns Ferry

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