Perhaps it’s not so much that Intermountain League softball power Timberlake is stumbling as it is St. Maries seems to be peaking at the right time.
For the second time in eight days, St. Maries handled the Tigers as the Lumberjacks captured their first 3A District I-II championship with an 8-5 win Saturday afternoon at Spirit Lake.
Last week, St. Maries snapped Timberlake’s 58-game IML winning streak. Saturday, the Lumberjacks stopped the Tigers’ string of consecutive district titles at six.
St. Maries (14-9) advances to state Thursday at Kimberly High School. The Lumberjacks open against Marsh Valley (13-11), a play-in qualifier.
Timberlake had to rally to earn the second state berth as the Tigers edged Kellogg 6-5.
The Tigers (20-7), who are going to state for a 10th straight year, open against District III champ Payette.
Kellogg (7-11) downed Priest River (9-11) 9-7 in a loser-out game.
St. Maries 8, Timberlake 5: Lumberjacks coach Todd Bitterman couldn’t resist stating the obvious.
“Eight’s our lucky number,” said Bitterman, whose team shut out Timberlake 8-0 last week before taking the district title.
It appeared as if St. Maries was going to win by another 8-0 score, too, but the Tigers wouldn’t roll over even though they trailed by that margin going into the bottom of the seventh.
St. Maries senior pitcher Kayla Stapleton had the Tigers confused for six innings to be sure. She had limited them to four hits while striking out four. She also coaxed 10 flyouts.
Bitterman tried to put a finger on why his team turned things around dramatically against Timberlake after suffering 9-0 and 11-1 losses earlier to the Tigers.
“Patience at the plate a little bit,” Bitterman said. “We did a better job of taking a lot of pitches from Afton (Allred), fouling off pitches. We just made better contact (and were) more disciplined at the plate. It was just a better approach at the plate I think.”
The Lumberjacks scored two runs with two outs in the first inning. Karly Truscott had an RBI triple, and she scored on a wild pitch.
St. Maries batted around in the fifth, sending 12 to the plate. Truscott had a run-scoring single, Magan Cummings knocked in two with a double and Doris Sines singled in a run.
“Last year our bats were dead,” Bitterman said. “This year, toward the end of the year, they came alive.”
Timberlake used four hits, including a three-run triple by Allred, to make things interesting in the seventh.
Bitterman thought Stapleton deserved a better ending.
“I thought Kayla got robbed of a gem by some calls on the outside part of the plate,” Bitterman said. “She should have had a shutout. She’s been gold the last two weeks.”
Stapleton thought the early runs were big.
“If we jump on them early, it’s hard for them to get back,” Stapleton said. “My defense backed me up a lot. It’s like the best wins I’ve ever had (against Timberlake). I’ve never felt this good in my life.”
Timberlake coach Mike Menti had to remind his team afterward before they played Kellogg in a loser-out game that the season wasn’t over.
“I asked them if they were ready to turn their uniforms in,” Menti said. “Their heads were down.”
The difference in the game, to Menti, was obvious.
“They were ready to play and we weren’t,” he said. “We owned them the first two games we played them. Now they’ve come back and owned us twice. They adjusted, we didn’t.”
Timberlake 6, Kellogg 5: The Wildcats opened a 5-0 lead, and the Tigers’ string of state appearances was in jeopardy.
But Timberlake rallied. It started in the fifth when Halee Edelblute hit a three-run homer.
Then in the seventh, Megan Hill got aboard on a triple and Ashlei Jerome knocked her in with a single. The Tigers loaded the bases and Lacy Tomason had the game-winning hit.
Kellogg 9, Priest River 7: The Spartans built a 5-1 lead, but the Wildcats rallied by scoring eight runs on eight hits in the fifth.
Kellogg had seven consecutive hits in the inning, the big blow being a three-run home run by Cody James.
•The coaches’ all-league team was announced.
Allred was named the most valuable player.
Named to the first team were: Edelblute, Hill, Brittany Amende and Tasha Palmer of Timberlake; Stapleton, Truscott and Tia Asbury of St. Maries; Kirsten Viche, Michaela Stewart and Cody James of Kellogg; and Andie Flavel and Melissa Kruse of Priest River.
5A play-in: Senior Amber Coburn fired a no-hitter as Coeur d’Alene earned a state berth with a 3-0 win over Meridian at Fruitland High School.
The Vikings (19-9) will join Region I champ Lake City (22-3) at state, beginning Thursday at CdA’s Ramsey Park. The Vikings open against District III champ Timberline (25-4).
Coburn struck out 11 and walked three. Lindsey Ritzheimer had two hits and knocked in the three runs.
4A Region I: Lakeland had lost its three previous games at Moscow, but the Hawks pulled off a road sweep to earn a state berth.
The Hawks (18-12) will play closer to home at state when the tourney begins Thursday at Post Falls High School. Lakeland faces Preston in the first round.
Lakeland forced an if-necessary game with a 2-1 win in the first game. Kat Neelon led off the seventh with a double and Lexi Jacobsen followed with the game-winning hit. Pitcher Jamie Klopatek had 12 strikeouts while limiting the Bears (9-13) to two hits.
The Hawks scored three runs in the sixth to secure victory in the second game. Alia Cox went 2 for 3 with two RBI.
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