COEUR D’ALENE – Scoreboard-watching was never easier than on Friday afternoon at Ramsey Park.
With the softball teams from Lake City and Coeur d’Alene high schools playing at the same time on adjoining fields in the second round of the State 5A tournament, good-natured rivalry was at its best. Friends and neighbors, dressed in the blue and white of both schools, mingled between fields and craned their necks at the action behind them.
It turned out to be a good day for both teams.
Jaden Behm came home with the winning run in the ninth inning of the Coeur d’Alene Vikings’ 2-1 win over Eagle. Twenty minutes later, Lake City pitcher Casey Stangel finished off Skyline with a solo homer as the Timberwolves beat the Grizzlies 10-0 and set up the sixth meeting this season with CdA.
Or a seventh, maybe an eighth. Today’s winner’s bracket final is set for 10 a.m., but this year’s tournament is a true double-elimination event, giving the loser a chance to come back for the 2 p.m. championship game, even the “if necessary” finale immediately following.
So far, Lake City has done everything necessary to make itself the clear-cut favorite, even if the bats didn’t catch fire until halfway through Friday’s second game. In the opener against Rocky Mountain, the T-Wolves (26-0) trailed by a run before Stangel’s two-run homer paved the way to a 4-1 win.
Lake City was coming off a 10-day break following district. “I think we were really excited to hit the ball and everybody was hitting a little early,” Stangel said.
Against Skyline, the T-Wolves led just 1-0 after four innings, and that came on two throwing errors.
“We had a few jitters,” said coach Laura Tolzmann, adding that several players are new to the pressure of state tournament play. “But once we roll, we keep rolling.”
Indeed, the T-Wolves scored eight runs in the fifth against Skyline to back up a no-hitter by Stangel.
Across the way, the Vikings were locked in a pitchers’ duel with Eagle, whose ace, Sierra Stone, had quit the team on the eve of the tournament. Freshman backup Bradie Fillmore kept the Vikings off-balance all afternoon, striking out 14 Vikings and later hitting a two-out triple in the top of the seventh.
But Coeur d’Alene pitcher Lindsie Scholwinski struck out the next batter, setting up a tie-breaker with a baserunner on second base. Both teams scored in the eighth, and in the ninth, right fielder Breana Burke made an outstanding catch to prevent a run.
“I knew it wasn’t going out, but I thought it was going over her head,” Scholwinski said. “But I have all the faith in the world in her.”
In the bottom of the ninth, the Viks’ Sydni Parker hit sharply to third base. A bad throw to first was all Behm needed to scoot home with the winning score.
“I think we’re all really excited, we couldn’t win this one without each other keeping positive,” said Scholwinski, who also threw a four-hitter that included 16 strikeouts. “And when we get down, we’re always pushing each other.”
Now the Vikings get a chance to push back at Lake City, the third-ranked team in the nation according to Maxpreps.com and winners of all five previous meetings with their city rivals.
“We just need to stay mentally focused,” CdA coach Larry Bieber said. “We have a saying on the back of our T-shirts: “Every play, every pitch, every day.”
“Well, tomorrow’s the day.”
4A: Lakeland defeated Kuna 4-3 and then edged Blackfoot 1-0 at Post Falls. The Hawks will play Bishop Kelly at 10 a.m.
3A: Timberlake was eliminated after falling to Fruitland and Shelley at Buhl. The Tigers lost 12-1 to Fruitland in five innings in the opening round. They were eliminated after a 5-2 loss to Shelley.
2A: St. Maries was eliminated at Orofino, losing its games to Malad and West Jefferson by identical 14-0 scores.