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Idaho State softball: Vikings come up just short

NAMPA, Idaho – The Coeur d’Alene softball team didn’t finish on top, but the Vikings certainly got their money’s worth at the Idaho 5A State tournament.

The Vikings stayed alive long enough to play seven games – the maximum possible at the two-day tournament – and forced a winner-take-all title game versus Mountain View before falling short, 7-4, in the finale Saturday at Skyview Softball Complex.

“As far as I’m concerned, this team is No. 1,” Vikings coach Larry Bieber said. “Seven games in two days against the best teams in the state – I’m just so proud of the effort and the spirit these girls showed.”

Mountain View (26-4) won its first state championship while breaking the Inland Empire League’s four-year hold on the title.

Coeur d’Alene (25-5) added a seventh runner-up finish to its five state banners, the most recent of which was hung in 2012.

Despite falling one win short of the title, the Vikings had no shortage of postseason heroes. Sophomore pitcher Breana Burke was outstanding, striking out 58 batters while pitching every inning at state. Senior first baseman Kayla Albertson set a tournament record by hitting four home runs. Fellow seniors Brooke Albertson, Sydni Parker and Zoe Clark fought to the last out of their high school careers.

In the end, the Vikings simply ran out of steam against a talented Mountain View team.

“It was a great experience,” Kayla Albertson said. “It’s definitely tiring, and the heat gets to you, but I’m glad we battled and got this far.

“I wish we could have won one more, but you can’t always win them all.”

Coeur d’Alene won three times Saturday, including an 8-2 victory over Mountain View to force the decisive game.

In the finale, Kayla Albertson homered in the second inning, but the Mavericks enjoyed some rare success against Burke to build an early 5-1 lead.

Mountain View pitcher Dakoda Lee kept the Vikings off-balance, using her devastating change-up to rack up eight strikeouts in just five innings.

Megan Browne pitched the final two innings and preserved the win, allowing an RBI single to Coeur d’Alene freshman Kylie Smith – who had three hits in the game – before slamming the door in the seventh.

The Vikings started rallies in the third and fifth innings, but both ended when runners were caught stealing.

“Our aggressiveness kind of hurt us in the end, but that’s what got us here,” Bieber said. “That’s the way we play, and it’s helped us win a lot of games, so we aren’t going to stop doing it now.”

In its other games on Saturday, Coeur d’Alene defeated Boise 7-2 and Rocky Mountain 11-5.