As the Lake City softball team posed with the championship trophy Saturday afternoon and the digital cameras were clicking away, a fan summed it up perfectly.
“This never gets old,” he said.
Perfection will do that.
In the final game of a 5A tournament that more resembled a coronation, the Timberwolves capped a 28-0 season by beating Eagle 10-0 to win their second title in three years.
After the game at Ramsey Park in Coeur d’Alene, hundreds of fans were perfectly satisfied to celebrate with the players, who got the party going with a four-run third inning that put Lake City ahead 5-0. That was more than enough for senior pitcher Casey Stangel, who threw a two-hitter in her final game until she leaves for the University of Missouri.
“We won as a team, and this is a team that’s going to be hard to let go of,” Stangel said between embraces with teammates, family and friends.
Leading 6-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning, the T-Wolves loaded the bases, then took advantage of two Eagle errors to score four more runs and clinch the title.
Another senior, catcher Lindsey Willmon, went out in style, with two hits, three runs, and a run-saving play in the top of the fifth. With Lake City leading 5-0 and an Eagle runner on third base with two outs, Stangel threw a wild pitch, but Willmon dashed to the backstop and flung the ball back to Stangel for the tag on the runner trying to score.
No worries, but then there never were, Willmon said.
“We haven’t had one rough practice, one bump on the road,” said Willmon, who will play next year at the University of Hawaii.
“We were smiling, laughing and loving each other all season – I’ve never had a team like this,” Willmon said.
Whether Lake City will have another team like this is hard to tell, but juniors Dakota Wilson (2 for 4, 3 RBIs) and second baseman Vanessa Shippy (3 for 3 with three runs) are among nine players returning next year.
“It’s going to be way different, but we have a great group of juniors coming in,” Shippy said.
Saturday wasn’t without some anxious moments for Lake City, which committed five errors but held off Coeur d’Alene 4-3 in the winner’s bracket final Saturday morning.
The Vikings, who beat Lake City 5-2 in last year’s title game, got a two-run homer from pitcher Lindsie Sholwinski, but couldn’t get the tying run across.
That meant a loser’s bracket rematch with Eagle, which Coeur d’Alene beat 2-1 in extra innings the day before. But the Vikings gave up three runs in the first inning, which was enough for the Mustangs’ outstanding freshman pitcher Bradie Fillmore as Eagle won 4-2. The Vikings got six hits, but struck out 10 times to finish third in the tournament.
“We kind of felt the air go out of us after Lake City,” said Coeur d’Alene coach Larry Bieber.
Not so for Sholwinski, whose final game was a two-hitter that included 12 strikeouts.
“You know how you ride someone’s arm in a tournament?” said Bieber, whose team finished 20-10.
“We’ve been riding her arm for four years,” Bieber said.