Eric Wallace reacquainted himself with home - and home plate - on Friday afternoon.
The former Coeur d’Alene High baseball standout swatted three home runs - two line shots and a towering drive - to lead Ricks College to a 6-0, 6-3 Region 18 sweep over bungling North Idaho College.
“I’ve been waiting three years for today,” Wallace said.
Wallace’s homecoming included: 6 for 7, four runs scored, six knocked in, a stolen base and two nifty catches in left field. He even found stimulus in the arctic weather - the wind-chill probably halved the 40-degree temperature.
“When it’s this cold, it’s even more motivation not to get jammed,” he said with a grin.
After graduating from CdA High, he played as a freshman at Ricks then served a two-year Mormon mission in Wisconsin. He redshirted last season.
Wallace’s sophomore season is going well, though it’s easy to get lost in the shadow of teammate Ryan Pond. Pond, who had an off day by going 2 for 8, leads the NJCAA with 15 homers and 64 RBIs, according to Vikings coach Jerry Schlegelmilch.
Wallace, meanwhile, is on course for “12 homers, 40-some RBIs,” Schlegelmilch said. “His big day will come next week. He’s signing at Utah.”
Wallace wasn’t quite as concrete about his college plans. Performances like Friday’s might alert a bundle of suitors.
As far as NIC is concerned, performances like Friday’s could leave them spectators come Region 18 Tournament time. The Cards are 1-4 in league; Ricks is 3-2.
“We haven’t played anywhere near that inept all year,” NIC coach Jack Bloxom said.
NIC butchered scoring opportunities and committed costly errors in wasting the solid pitching of Marc Pizzoferrato and Shelby Hawkins.
NIC’s misery arrived early. In the first inning of the opener, NIC came away empty after loading the bases with no outs and a 3-1 count on No. 4 hitter Jason Bay. Tyler Holland threw a borderline pitch and the home-plate umpire stalled a second before making a strike call. NIC runners, though, believing they’d seen ball four, wandered off the bags. Two were picked off.
Bay eventually struck out.
In the second game, NIC loaded the bases again, scoring only one run before Ryan Novak grounded into a double play. A promising rally in the seventh fizzled when non-sliding Al Bevacqua was thrown out at third trying to advance on a flyout.
Ricks scored three late runs - one in the seventh after a third-strike pitch skipped away from catcher Jason Pendell and Paul Wilson dropped Pendell’s throw at first, and two in the eighth fueled by Hawkins’ errant throw after casually fielding a bunt.
NIC’s Matt Penner banged out five hits and Bevacqua had three in two games, but Wallace’s homers were the story.
“It’s nice to be home,” said Wallace, who had a number of relatives in the stands.
Ricks 6-6, North Idaho 0-3
Ricks 101 000 4 - 6 10 1
North Idaho 000 000 0 - 0 5 1
Holland and Boyle. Pizzoferrato and Dorame. W-Holland (2-2). L-Pizzoferrato (2-2).
Hits: Ricks-Hall 2, Wallace 3, Pond 2, Boyle 2, Moss. NICPenner 2, Bevacqua 2, Bay. 2B-Hall, Pond, Moss. HR-Wallace 2 (6, 7).
Ricks 200 010 120 - 6 10 0
North Idaho 100 100 100 - 3 11 3
Kidman, Luke (6), Fifield (8) and Boyle. Hawkins, Boesch (8) and Pendell. W-Kidman (4-3). L-Hawkins (2-2). S-Fifield (4).
Hits: Ricks-Miller 2, Hall, Wallace 3, Cluff, Hatch, Boyle, Bagley. NICPenner 3, Bevacqua, Wilson, Bay, Gorham, Pendell, Larson, Nelson. 2B-Bagley, Wilson. HR -Wallace (8).