Inconsistent hitting troubled the Lakeland softball team much of the season, but the Preston Indians might be excused for thinking otherwise.
Buffeted by a breeze but bolstered by seven Indians errors, the Hawks smacked 13 hits and cruised to an 11-3 victory Thursday afternoon in the opening game of the 4A state softball tournament at Post Falls High School.
Eight of those runs came in the fifth inning, when Lakeland broke open what had been a 2-2 game. All eight were unearned.
“Once one person hits on our team, it gets us going and going and going,” said Lakeland junior Aly Watson, who went 3 for 4 and scored twice in the fifth inning. “It felt really good.”
The Indians (9-18) committed three errors in the pivotal frame, and the Hawks (19-12) strung together eight hits in 12 plate appearances to put the game out of reach.
Juniors Chelsea Campbell, Jordan Thomas and Jamie Klopatek each drove in two runs for Lakeland, which will face Emmett at noon today in the second round of the double-elimination tournament. It will play at least one more game after that, regardless of the first contest’s outcome.
“Knowing that it’s not two-and-out, it eases the pressure,” Campbell said. “We know we can hit in this tournament.”
They also apparently are not troubled by less-than-ideal weather, which the Hawks have faced frequently this month. Just last week, Campbell was dodging puddles on either side of the pitcher’s mound against Sandpoint.
Additionally, the Hawks were playing with a clear home-field advantage, what with their beds in Rathdrum just 6 miles north. The Indians, on the other hand, traveled 600 miles for the tournament.
Still, Lakeland coach Colleen Bevacqua downplayed any perceived edge, mostly because her players still attended school in the morning.
“I almost think being in town is a disadvantage,” she said. “Everyone else got to wake up, have breakfast with their team and have team time. My girls were in class until 12:30.”
That didn’t appear to affect the Hawks much, though, namely starting pitcher Klopatek, who struck out nine batters and scattered 10 hits in seven innings. Lakeland committed just one error behind her despite a gusty wind out of left field that gave Preston’s fielders fits. The Hawks did the rest with their bats, which they hope will be hot again today against Emmett, which blanked Blackfoot 1-0 in the first round.
“We need to start off strong,” Watson said. “We waited till one of the last innings to start hitting the ball. We need to start better, not just have our moments and stop.”
Mountain Home, Kuna advance
In the bottom half of the bracket, Mountain Home shut out Pocatello 3-0 to reach the second round, where it will play defending champion Kuna. The Kavemen outlasted Wood River 7-6 in the day’s final contest.
Games start at 10 a.m. today, with two more each at noon, 3 and 5 p.m.
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