It’s crowded at the top of the Inland Empire league softball standings and the league season isn’t even at the midpoint for a couple of teams.
Lake City saw to that by bouncing back from a loss to Coeur d’Alene earlier this week with a 3-2 victory over the visiting Vikings on Friday. The preseason favorite Timberwolves improved to 4-2 while snapping a two-game skid. The youthful Vikings are 2-2, same as Post Falls, which entertains Lewiston (2-4) for a doubleheader today.
“We’re all pretty even,” Lake City coach Laura Tolzmann said. “Today was big for us. We haven’t been able to capitalize, getting the leadoff (batter) on base and getting them home, but we strung some hits together.”
“It’s all about the district tournament to get to state anyway, but I love this parity,” Vikings coach Larry Bieber said. “We’re playing our toughest games against people in our league. Post Falls beats Lake City, we beat Lake City, Lake City beats us.”
The Timberwolves were blanked in their last two games and had gone 18 innings without scoring a run. That dry spell ended on Katie Rowe’s solo homer in the second, a towering blast that cleared the left-field fence by at least 35 feet.
The Vikings, who squandered a couple of scoring opportunities early, went in front with two runs in the fourth. Lindsie Scholwinski’s single drove in Jessica Lupinacci. Kristina Goodwin scored from third on a throwing error to put CdA on top 2-1.
LC went back in front with two runs in the fifth. Kallie Neal singled and Casey Stangel lined a shot to the right of shortstop Lupinacci, who nearly made the catch but the ball squirted out of her glove, putting runners at first and second. Kory Kritz doubled in the tying run. Pinch-hitter Amber Hawkes, a freshman, gave LC a 3-2 lead with an RBI single but CdA center fielder Hailey Petit threw out Kritz at home. Symbolic of the well-played game, fans on both sides were left applauding.
“Amber is just a go-getter and I thought, ‘We’re in a spot where we need that line drive, that big hit,’ ” Tolzmann said.
Freshman pitcher Stangel made the lead stand up. Center fielder Becky Short made a running catch on Lupinacci’s drive to open the sixth, a play that became even bigger when ensuing batter Goodwin beat out a nubber in front of home plate.
After Petit’s one-out double in the seventh, Stangel retired Randi Spencer on a popout and Kyeli Parker on a grounder to Rowe at short.
“My team was really strong and we put it together,” Stangel said. “We have a solid defense.”
Coeur d’Alene’s Nikki Ragsdale nearly matched Stangel pitch for pitch, yielding eight hits and just one walk.
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