ELLIOTT: The gems of the diamond in Idaho

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If you look hard enough, you can find some hidden gems on the baseball diamond around the area.

Need proof?

Of the three players selected in the recent MLB Draft from the state of Idaho, two came from the northern part of the state with Jake Pfennigs of Post Falls High and Kris Jackson of Lakeland High having their names called on the draft’s final day on June 6.

JUST FROM watching him compete in other sports, you could tell that Pfennigs could succeed in baseball, basketball and even football, had he wanted to continue in either of those.

Instead, Pfennigs will take his talents to Corvallis, joining the Oregon State baseball program next spring, turning down a chance to join the San Diego Padres after he was selected in the 35th round.

Over the fall, Pfennigs turned into a reliable target on the football field near the end zone when the team needed a score. On the basketball court, he did that as well, probably having his best run of games in the ultra-competitive Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas last December.

It has been a few years since Jackson was on the mound for the Lakeland Hawks as they advanced to the state 4A championship game,

From watching him pitch, whether it was at Lakeland or during his time with the Prairie American Legion baseball program, Jackson always seemed relaxed on the mound.

Jackson wasn’t too bad in the field either, making some difficult plays look routine, whether it was at shortstop or in the outfield.

“I think we’ve got a lot of really good talent in North Idaho,” Jackson said. “The way that a lot of us come from small towns, scouts don’t think we play as talented of kids as in other parts of the country. But Idaho does produce kids that can produce at the professional level.”

Eagle High product Alex Guerrero, a catcher, was the first player from Idaho taken in last week’s draft, being selected by the New York Yankees in the 18th round, 547th overall. Eagle advanced to the state 5A tournament this spring, losing to District 3 foe Rocky Mountain of Meridian in the consolation championship game.

THIS AREA last had local players selected in the MLB Draft in 2015, when Drew Turbin (Orioles) and Michael Hicks (Yankees) were selected. Alex Capaul, an Arizona Diamondbacks selection in 2011, even got the chance to pitch on the mound at Avista Stadium a few years ago when the Yakima Bears — an Arizona affiliate — took on the Spokane Indians. Others selected include infielder Shea Vucinich, a Coeur d’Alene High product, in 2010 by the Milwaukee Brewers; Lake City outfielder Kyle Johnson by the Los Angeles Angels in 2012 and Devon Austin, a Coeur d’Alene High product, by the Chicago Cubs in 2010.

Hicks opted to continue his college career at NJCAA power Yavapai and later the University of Portland, while Turbin played for three years in the Orioles organization, but was released after the 2017 season.

Chances could be on the way soon, with graduates from high school moving on to playing careers either at the junior college or Division I level.

In a way, we’ve been spoiled a little bit because as a fan, we get to see just how good some of these players really are.

Hopefully soon, the rest of the nation gets a good idea that these spuds are really studs on the baseball field.

Jason Elliott is a sports writer for the Coeur d’Alene Press. He can be reached by telephone at (208) 664-8176, Ext. 2020 or via email at jelliott@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter @JECdAPress.

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