There is extra incentive for area high school fastpitch softball teams to qualify for the State A-1 and A-2 tournaments this season.
That incentive is the chance to sleep in their own beds come May 17-18, as Coeur d’Alene plays host to both season finales.
And it’s probable that the Inland Empire and Intermountain Leagues will qualify three teams each for those double-elimination tournaments.
Lake City High and Moscow will be the sites of the May 11 title games for the A-1 Region I and A-2 District I-II tournaments, respectively.
Southern Idaho teams claimed the first “official” state fastpitch titles a year ago: Centennial of Boise in A-1 and Bishop Kelly in A-2. Orofino is the defending A-3 champ.
Prior to that, Coeur d’Alene won 13 straight A-1 slowpitch championships, and St. Maries was the five-time defending A-2 slowpitch titlist.
“State (in Coeur d’Alene) makes it even greater,” Vikings coach Larry Bieber said. “We want to get back in there. Last year was kind of a letdown, even though Lake City was in the championship game.”
Lake City coach Dwight Wilson still laments the Timberwolves’ 5-4 title loss to Centennial, which was marred by 14 Lake City errors.
The Timberwolves graduated the 1995 IEL Player of the Year in pitcher Kelly Nelson. “She faced 119 batters last year and walked one. And that was a questionable call,” Wilson said. “That’ll tell you how good she was.”
Lakeland won its first District I-II softball title a year ago and also made its first state appearance.
“The first (1996) practice we held we couldn’t get outside, the gym was full of soccer and baseball players,” Hawks coach Danielle Bean said. “We took the (softball) kids and showed them the (video) of the first game at state when we lost in extra innings, and that kinda put the fire back in their eyes.”
, DataTimes MEMO: See related story under the headline: Inland Empire League/Intermountain League softball