The Lakeland softball team’s season concluded without a trophy Friday, but that wasn’t exactly why the Hawks left the field so dejectedly.
To them, an eight-run loss was no way to end anything – a game, a tournament and especially a high school career for the Hawks’ three seniors.
But that’s what happened at Post Falls High School, where Lakeland lost back-to-back games and was eliminated from the 4A state tournament after opening with a victory the day before.
“I wish the game we went out on was a little bit better than that,” senior Alisha Watson said. “It’s disappointing, because that’s not us.”
A few hours after dropping a 4-2 decision to Emmett, Lakeland lost its poise, allowing six runs in the first inning of a 12-4 loss to Wood River.
“That’s a tough way to go out,” Lakeland coach Colleen Bevacqua said. “We just shut off.”
Emmett went on to defeat Kuna 3-1 in the day’s final game, meaning it needs to only win one more game today to claim the state title.
The Huskies – still undefeated in the double-elimination tournament – await the winner of today’s 10 a.m. loser-out game between Kuna and Mountain Home.
Lakeland (19-14) never led against either of its foes, though it did seem to build momentum in the late innings against Emmett.
Down 4-0 heading into the sixth, the Hawks loaded the bases with no one out, ultimately scoring twice to make the game manageable. In the bottom of the seventh, they brought the tying run to the plate three times before bowing out.
But all that apparent momentum dissipated against Wood River.
Starting on the mound in place of ace pitcher Jamie Klopatek, Watson faced five Wolverines batters and failed to retire any of them. Klopatek replaced Watson and eventually wriggled out of the inning, but not before the Wolverines plated six runs.
Lakeland pieced together four runs in the first three innings to pull within two, but Wood River pitcher Samantha Engel overpowered the Hawks – on the mound and at the plate.
After cobbling together the first nine outs, the senior methodically earned the remaining 12, allowing just two Lakeland baserunners in the final four innings as the Wolverines gradually rebuilt their lead.
Engel, who also homered and reached base four times, finished with nine strikeouts.
“We worked too hard and have too good of skills to go out of the state tournament like that,” Watson said. “I didn’t want to leave the state tournament with any regrets, and it’s happening.”
But the Hawks were quick to point toward next year, when the team expects to return seven of its nine starters, including Klopatek and No. 3-hitter Jordan Thomas, who went 6 for 10 with four runs in three state tournament games.
“Next year we’re going to be prepared,” sophomore catcher Alia Cox said. “We’ve seen everything this year.”
Watson was equally optimistic.
“I hope that the underclassmen realize how much passion and desire we have,” she said. “Next year, I hope they all have it, and I know they do. I know they’ll do a tremendous job.”
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