The loud exhale that could be heard near the Lake City High softball diamond Wednesday afternoon was coming from the Timberwolves in general and coach Laura Tolzmann in particular.
Lake City shared the Inland Empire League title last year but saw its season end abruptly when it was eliminated in the 5A Region I tournament.
The Timberwolves, who cruised to a league title, dodged disaster by rallying for a 6-5 win over Lewiston in a regional opener Wednesday and followed up with a convincing 5-0 win over Coeur d’Alene in the championship game.
It is LC’s first regional title since 2001, and the T-Wolves (22-3) are returning to state for the first time since 2006. State is May 14-16 at Ramsey Park, located 2 miles south of LC. The T-Wolves will face the District III runner-up, either Timberline (24-4) or Borah (21-7), in a first-round game. Borah and Timberline play for a district title today.
Coeur d’Alene (17-9) will meet Post Falls (18-8) today in an elimination game at Larry Schwenke Field at 4. The winner advances to a play-in game to decide a state berth Saturday against the District III fifth-place team.
The Vikings edged Post Falls 3-1 in the completion of first-round games that were suspended Tuesday because of wet fields. Post Falls topped Lewiston (15-10) 1-0 in a loser-out game that was called after five innings because of rain.
Lake City 5, Coeur d’Alene 0: The T-Wolves made sure there wasn’t any doubt.
Senior pitcher Lela Work gave up just three hits while striking out 11 and walking two.
Work’s teammates supported her at the plate, too. They added to a 2-0 lead with three runs in the fifth. One run came in on a wild pitch, Jamie Hall had a run-scoring single and Jessica Ross had a sacrifice fly.
After the way LC’s season ended last year, Tolzmann couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief.
“Having the (bad) taste in our mouth last year and knowing we were that close just really kept this group determined,” Tolzmann said. “I can breathe now.”
Ross was thankful her team took care of business and doesn’t have to try to earn a state berth via the play-in route.
“Doing it this way is much better and less stressful – definitely,” Ross said.
CdA pitcher Amber Coburn also pitched well, allowing just three hits. But the Vikings, who have struggled most of the season hitting, did so again in the title game.
“Our bats were gone,” Bieber said. “We just didn’t hit the ball period. The whole last week we had been hitting the ball really well. It’s going to happen tomorrow. The bats are going to come back. That’s my promise and I’m sticking to it. You can print it.”
CdA 3, Post Falls 1: The Vikings did all of their scoring on Tuesday and were hitless in the final five innings Wednesday.
Their 3-0 lead held up, though. Post Falls managed just one hit, a homer by Bri Joseph in the seventh inning.
Nina Goodwin had a run-scoring double and Hailey Petit and Amanda Brouillard had RBI singles to account for the Vikings’ runs.
LC 6, Lewiston 5: In terms of drama, this beat the other three games by a mile.
The T-Wolves led 3-2 going into the seventh. But Lewiston scored three, all coming with two outs.
LC answered moments later. Hall led off with a single and scored on a double by Ross. She scored when Katie Rowe reached on an error, and Work belted a double to the right-center fence to plate in the winning run.
Post Falls 1, Lewiston 0: Stephanie Peugh’s triple in the fourth inning knocked in the lone run.
The teams played one more inning before the umpires ended it because the field was unplayable.
Post Falls coach Jack Foster is looking forward to playing CdA today.
“It’s going to come down to who hits the ball,” said Foster, whose team is 3-2 against the Vikings.