With the prospect of a second mercy-rule defeat of the week looming in the latter half of their Idaho Class A American Legion state tournament loser-out game Thursday against the Pocatello Razorbacks, the Moscow Blue Devils found their spark.

Moscow finished strong, logging the final four runs of the contest, but nevertheless fell 14-8.

“The kids knew what to do,” Blue Devils coach Stan Mattoon said. “I just needed them to stay focused and not give up — and they haven’t given up all year at anything. That wasn’t going to happen tonight. We ran out of innings; if it was a nine-inning game, who knows?”

After a 1-1 start, a series of missed catches and bobbled balls from Moscow (23-11) in the top of the second inning helped an opportunistic Razorback offense open up a 5-1 lead. Pocatello’s efficient defense would mark a clear contrast between the teams for most of the game, with the Blue Devils ultimately recording five fielding errors to their opponents’ zero.

Then Pocatello (26-16) tallied two more runs in the fourth and three in the fifth, and the game began to feel reminiscent of Moscow’s 10-0 five-inning mercy rule loss to the Marsh Valley Eagles of Arimo on Tuesday. The Blue Devils found themselves down 10-1 and still in trouble with Razorback runners on second and third when Isaac Staszkow — having just relieved starter Mack Hagenbaugh — found a much-needed strikeout to end the inning.

Moscow managed three runs in its half of the fifth after a two-run single from Tyler Howard, only to give up four more to Pocatello in the top of the sixth to face the mercy rule once again, this time at 14-4.

However, Chad Redinger and Ryan Delusa came through with back-to-back doubles on deep blasts to score one and keep the Blue Devils in the game.

Delusa, who relieved Staszkow, registered two strikeouts in the seventh.

“Nine-run inning boys, let’s go!” one player could be heard to exclaim as the Blue Devils jogged to their dugout trailing 14-5 heading to the bottom of the seventh.

But it was not to be. Doubles from Connor Akins and Staszkow followed by a fourth base hit of the day from Thompson helped Moscow cut the gap further, but the rally came up short.

“I think we might have been a little tight going into this one, and eventually, I think they just kind of looked at the scoreboard and said, ‘Let’s just take a deep breath and relax and don’t think about the score,’” Mattoon said of his team’s late momentum. “There are times when you just have to forget what the scoreboard is and do your thing.”

This was the final game in the Legion careers of Akins, Thompson, Dylan Andrews and CJ Anderson.

“Those guys made a pact last year when the season ended abruptly due to COVID that they were going to come back and have some unfinished business,” Mattoon noted.

Their key goals were to title in at least one regular-season tourney (achieved at the Libby Big Bucks tournament), win the league and district events, and “make a strong showing at State, if not win it all.” In the end, they did all those things; “nothing to hang your head about,” as Mattoon put it.

“We had a great season with these guys,” Mattoon said. “... We’ve got the nucleus coming back again, and I told them if we work hard and persevere, we could be right back here next year.”

Pocatello 140 234 0 —14 13 0

Moscow 100 031 3—8 12 5

Elias Blackhawk, JD Gunderson (2), Maddox Moore (6), Karson Farnsworth (7) and Gunner Wilhelm; Mack Hagenbaugh, Isaac Staszkow (5), Ryan Delusa (6) and Dylan Andrews, CJ Anderson (2).

Pocatello hits — Wilhelm 3, Kevin Dahlstrom 3, Trem Tolman 2, Ryan Foltz 2 (2B), Blackhawk (2B), Jace Vaughn, Tanner Hartley (2B).

Moscow hits — Hayden Thompson 4, Delusa 3 (2B), Tyler Howard 2, Connor Akins (2B), Isaac Staszkow (2B), Chad Redinger (2B).

Marsh Valley Eagles 11, Idaho Falls Tigers 9

A five-run sixth inning gave the Marsh Valley Eagles of Arimo just what they needed to rally past the Idaho Falls Tigers and advance to the Idaho American Legion Class A state title game.

A complete linescore was not available.

Marsh Valley, which enters the championship round unbeaten in the double-elimination tournament, will face the Razorbacks at 4 p.m. today. One win will be enough to secure the title for the Eagles, who defeated the Razorbacks on Wednesday, while a Pocatello win would force a deciding contest to follow immediately after.

Idaho Falls 010 620 0— 9 11 2

Marsh Valley 200 405 x—11 13 1

Wendt may be contacted at cwendt@lmtribune.com, or (208) 848-2268.