A fitting retirement gift: Nampa Christian gives longtime coach 12th state championship

·4 min read

Nampa Christian baseball coach Marc Harris has been used to ending the season on top in his long career.

The Trojans made sure he’d do it one last time.

Behind stellar pitching from senior Landon Cheney and a balanced offense, host Nampa Christian (28-2) rolled to an 8-0 win over Firth on Saturday to repeat as 2A state champion. The victory sends Harris into retirement with an even dozen Idaho championship trophies, after appearing in state finals 17 times.

“After 40 years I thought it was time to hang it up,” Harris told the Idaho Statesman in a phone interview. “When trying to look at it in retrospect, I’ve just been so blessed by God to teach and coach at a Christian school. ... So blessed to be around the game, around awesome kids, awesome parents. ... And the opposing coaches and parents, so many of those guys are my friends.

“Just to have that great competition to take this to higher levels, that’s the fun part.”

The Trojans have delivered almost nothing but fun the past two seasons. This year’s team started eight seniors who finish their careers having lost only twice the past two seasons. Both of those came in 2022, to Marsh Valley — which won the 3A state title Saturday —and South Fremont, after an undefeated 2021 campaign.

Harris said having a long unbeaten streak reminded him of the 1990s, when he had teams that won 61 straight.

“Little old ladies at church would come up and talk to me about the streak,” he said.

So when Nampa Christian dropped a couple of games this season, he wasn’t too concerned.

“It was kind of like, OK, we’re done with that, now let’s get on with our business,” he said. “I think they are pretty businesslike. We want them to be intense, not tense; confident, not cocky.”

Cheney was confident, and dominant, on the mound Saturday, striking out 14 and allowing just four hits in a complete-game win. Nampa Christian’s pitching was superb the entire state tournament, yielding just 3 runs and 11 hits, while striking out 28.

Five different Trojans drove in runs in the win over Firth, with Cheney, Dane Bradshaw, Carson Atwood and Zach Mullins delivering RBI hits that helped stake Nampa Christian to a 6-0 lead after three innings.

Mullins and Atwood both finished with a pair of RBIs.

“They’re a phenomenal group,” Harris said of his final team. “They dedicated themselves to playing this game at a high level. Many played in clubs, Legion, summer ball ever since they were little.

“You can’t win the Kentucky Derby with a plow horse. Many of these guys were stallions.”

A long shot did win the Derby two weeks ago. But Nampa Christian, the front-running favorite, was not about to let something like that happen this weekend.

Zach Merritt pitched a shutout in the team’s opening game, Atwood had seven strikeouts and a strong effort in the semifinals — his first mound outing since a high-ankle sprain a couple of weeks ago, Harris said — and had Cheney not tossed up a couple of knuckleballs, Firth likely would have had even fewer baserunners.

“He likes to throw some knuckleballs,” Harris said with a laugh. “He threw two and they hit ‘em both, and we said, OK, no more.”

The coach said one of his team’s themes this year was “passion and intensity,” because “sometimes it’s harder to win when everyone expects you to win.”

The Trojans, who closed the season with 25 straight wins, did what was expected of them.

3A STATE TOURNAMENT

Marsh Valley 15, Fruitland 4: No. 1 seed Marsh Valley finally gave up some runs in Saturday’s championship at Northwest Nazarene University, but upstart Fruitland’s offense wasn’t enough to keep the Eagles from a title.

Marsh Valley (24-3) used 12 hits and six errors by the Grizzlies to coast to the win, never looking back after a seven-run second inning. Braxton Foster, Dylan Driessen and Karter Howell combined for 10 RBIs for the Eagles in a game that went only five innings.

Howell was the winning pitcher, but he was touched for four runs after Marsh Valley opened the state tournament with back-to-back shutouts. Zane Bidwell had two hits and a homer for No. 7 seed Fruitland (17-11), Lane Roberts had two RBIs, and Landon Bushong and Zach Arnold had two hits apiece.

1A STATE TOURNAMENT

North Star Charter 15, Glenns Ferry 1: The Huskies (20-3) captured their second trophy in their second season, routing the Pilots (15-11) for the 1A consolation title.

Daniel Kormylo shined on the mound, striking out 10 and holding Glenns Ferry to one run on two hits in the five-inning victory.

Cole Young led North Star at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Evan Mixson and Johnny Szekeres also both drove in two runs.

Troy won the 1A state title with a 4-3 win over Gensee. Prairie topped Clearwater Valley 4-0 in the third-place game.

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