A little frivolity next month before football gets serious. The Bronco Football Summer Classic, the softball game between the Boise State offense and defense, went missing for two years (2014-15). But it returned last year to a rousing welcome at Memorial Stadium, and it will be back this year on Thursday, July 20. The event will begin with a home run derby at 6 p.m., with the game’s first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m. You’d think the derby would be wide open with Joe Martanano having departed to pro baseball, but if former Rocky Mountain High star Mason Smith is able to play, bet away. Smith is doing the opposite of Martarano, transitioning from pro baseball to Bronco football.
The game’s captains this year are quarterback Brett Rypien (offense) and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (defense). Both players met with the media yesterday to pump things up. And Rypien met with Caves & Prater on Idaho SportsTalk. So how do things stand now, about nine weeks before the season? Rypien says he’s honing his accuracy and consistency during player-run practices this summer. Concentration on leadership is a given for Rypien, but he wants one facet of that to shine through to his teammates: confidence. “Whether you turn the ball over or score a touchdown, they want you to come back with the same level of confidence you had before,” Rypien said. The highs are never too high—the lows are never too low.
Among the newspapers that churn out college football preseason rankings, the Orlando Sentinel is one of the more respected. “Respect” is probably not a word you’d use in conjunction with the Sentinel’s view of Boise State. The Broncos are not only outside the top 25, they’re outside the top 50. In placing them at No. 61, Iliana Romero points at what she thinks Rypien must do: “Boise State needs him to be a vocal leader for an offense that has lost some key veterans.” Personally, I think Rypien’s fine in that area. It’s the aforementioned consistency and accuracy that are going to tell the tale. On the other side, Romero writes, “The Broncos’ rush defense has room to improve, especially considering the number of Mountain West title contenders that rely on tailbacks to spark their offense.” Fair enough there.
Boise State doesn’t offer scholarships to junior college players unless they’re seen as filling a need. It’s no different with walk-ons. Scout.com reports that wide receiver Ravon Alexander from Modesto Junior College will join the Broncos a preferrred walk-on and will arrive next week. There’s a need at wideout. Alexander had planned to walk on at Washington State but flipped over the past two weeks. The 6-1, 180-pounder was lightly-recruited out of high school, hence the JC route. In reading about him, maybe—just maybe—he could come in and be an old-fashioned Bronco. “Basically, being hungry is what I learned by coming (to Modesto),” Alexander told Scout.com. “Going to a JC made me a better player and kept me hungry and now I plan on taking that same mindset to Boise.” That’s how this program was built.
Tanner Mangum generally had to sit and watch BYU play football last year. In uniform. Now the Cougars are his team to run, as Taysom Hill is finally down the road. Mangum’s first official day as “the man” in Provo was last Friday, when BYU held its Media Day, and Mangum appeared on Idaho SportsTalk. He didn’t expect to collect rust last fall, but he attempted just 33 passes all season. “That’s the life lesson you learn in sports,” Mangum said. “You just have to make the best of any situation you’re in.” I still wonder why the Cougars didn’t try to redshirt him. They could have had him ready for every game as a No. 2 without playing him. That was out the window in Game 6, a win at Michigan State in which Mangum went in during mopup—and didn’t throw a pass. A year of eligibility was expended in one fell swoop.
Last night was a big one at the plate for Will Haynie. The second-year Boise Hawk out of the University of Alabama went 3-for-4, including a double, a triple and two RBIs to key an 8-2 victory over Salem-Keizer in the opener of a three-game series last night at Memorial Stadium. Haynie’s firepower helped the Hawks’ hotttest pitcher, John Valek, improve his numbers to 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA. The win gets Boise back to .500 at 6-6.
Mark Zagunis has become the 126th former Boise Hawk to make the majors (but just the second this season). Zagunis made his MLB debut last Thursday night with the Chicago Cubs. He’s played five games and has gone 0-for-11 with four strikeouts, although he did knock in a run in his first game. Zagunis was solid in his one season with the Hawks in 2014, batting .299 with 27 RBIs in 41 games after being drafted out of Virginia Tech in the third round.
There’s some golf to catch up on beyond Troy Merritt’s and Graham DeLaet’s strong showing at the Travelers Championship over the weekend. The Idaho Men’s Amateur was played at Falcon Crest, and the new champion is Trevor Lampson of Gilbert, AZ, at 13-under, three shots better than Oregon State commit Carson Barry of Eagle. Veteran Jesse Hibler of Meridian and Notre Dame golfer Hunter Ostrom tied for third, and Boise State incoming freshman Skyler Eubank was fifth. Elsewhere, Mountain West individual champion Brian Humphreys was runnerup to UCLA’s Cole Madey in match play at the Oregon Amateur in West Linn. Humphreys, the Bronco sophomore-to-be, made 31 birdies on his way to the final.
This Day In Sports…June 27, 1992, 25 years ago today:
After a six-month Reebok campaign called “Dan and Dave”, featuring Olympic decathlon hopefuls Dan O’Brien and Dave Johnson, O’Brien fails in the pole vault and is eliminated at the U.S. Olympic Trials. It was a shock for the former Idaho Vandal star, who had won the world decathlon championship in 1991. He would be world champ again in 1993 and 1995, and would fully redeem himself by winning the gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)