It surprises none of the Lake City Timberwolves softball players that they’re undefeated on the eve of the State 5A tournament.
The Timberwolves, in fact, wanted to finish the season undefeated.
If that happens, Lake City will capture its second state championship in school history, first under coach and LC graduate Laura Tolzmann and first in 10 years. And, perhaps, the first of two or three to come.
To finish what LC (23-0) has started, it must win its final three beginning at noon Friday when the Timberwolves take on Mountain View of Meridian, the fifth seed from District III, in a state opener at Post Falls High School.
Earlier, Coeur d’Alene (15-7) faces District III runner-up and state power Timberline (23-2) at 10.
“We’ve wanted to go undefeated,” said senior center fielder and leadoff hitter Becky Short, who has the team’s third-best batting average (.473). “Step by step we’ve accomplished our goals. There’s just one way to finish it now.”
It’s easy to look at LC’s team and see that one special player is in the middle of the T-Wolves’ success. Sophomore pitcher Casey Stangel has been overpowering in the circle and she leads in most offensive statistics.
The left-handed Stangel, who gave an oral commitment to Missouri last year, is 22-0 with 15 shutouts. She has struck out 249 in 130 innings, 202 being swinging strikeouts, and has a 0.42 ERA. Opponents are hitting .130 against her.
She’s been just as dominating at the plate, batting .638 with 46 RBIs, nine homers, 44 hits and 15 doubles. She’s struck out just three times in 69 at-bats.
“She’s the most dominating pitcher I’ve ever seen and she’s not even halfway through her high school career,” Tolzmann said.
LC thought the first of several state titles would come last year. But the Sunday night of state week, Stangel noticed pain in her abdomen. On Monday morning she had her appendix removed.
A testament to her mental and physical toughness, Stangel returned to practice on Wednesday and pitched at state.
“Physically, I was about 70 percent,” Stangel said. “I knew I was better than I was able to perform. I really wanted a state title. If I’d been healthy, we would have challenged.”
Here’s why LC believes this week and beyond can be golden – the core of the team is young. Just one senior starts in the field along with three freshmen, two sophomores and three juniors start.
While Stangel’s impact is measurable, LC has many contributing ingredients.
Six players hit better than .400. In addition to Stangel and Short they are junior Amber Edwards (.550), freshman Vanessa Shippy (.492), freshman Dakota Wilson (.460) and junior Jamie Yurick (.406).
“Most years I might have one, maybe two, who hit over .400,” Tolzmann said. “We’ve broken a lot of team hitting records. I’ve never had weapons one through nine in the lineup.”
Sophomore catcher Mariah Linahan begs to differ.
“We hit one through 13,” Linahan said. “If everybody played, everybody can hit. It’s amazing. There are no weak spots.”
Tolzmann has had a couple of teams she thought would capture state titles, the most recent two years ago when LC lost a 1-0 game to Timberline in the semifinal. She likes her team’s chances, especially with Stangel pitching.
“I think we have a good edge over the southern teams because of her speed, velocity and movement,” Tolzmann said.