Perhaps Coeur d’Alene softball coach Larry Bieber summed up the emotions best after his Vikings collected their sixth State 5A runner-up trophy Saturday afternoon.
“Finishing second is tough because you get to that very last game of the year (and) the prize is much bigger than the loss, because nobody remembers who was the state runner-up,” Bieber said. “It’s the toughest game of the year to lose. It’s the greatest game of the year to win.”
Timberline captured its second state championship since 2005 with a 7-3 win over Coeur d’Alene under sun-splashed skies at Ramsey Park.
Coeur d’Alene advanced to the final after eliminating rival Lake City 4-0 in the game to decide third.
Timberline 7, Coeur d’Alene 3: The Wolves of Boise (29-4) threatened to decide it early when they built a 4-0 lead through four innings.
But the Vikings (23-11) pulled to within 4-3 in the top of the fifth. Jessica Eppers and Amanda Brouillard had back-to-back hits to open the inning, but it appeared they would be stranded after a strikeout and groundout.
Then Lindsey Ritzheimer hit a shot back up the middle through the legs of Timberline pitcher Erin Keen to knock in two runs and Kathy Comack followed with an RBI single.
The Wolves regained a comfortable cushion in the sixth when they scored three runs on three hits.
CdA, which also has four state titles among its cache of state trophies, showed brief hope when Jessica Lupinacci and Jessica Kraft had back-to-back singles to open the seventh. But the Wolves tightened up their defense and got three quick outs to end the game.
“We always say we need to finish and we got a little lackadaisical there in the middle when we were up by four,” Timberline coach Annie Schmidt said. “Then we came back strong and pushed it through.”
Of all of Bieber’s state runner-up teams, though, this may have been the one he’ll cherish most. The Vikings lost Lupinacci – a standout sophomore center fielder they were counting on for speed, hit production and defense – to a broken wrist with the season barely a week old. Then they went through a seemingly season-long hitting slump among other bumps.
The Vikings picked the appropriate time to peak.
“With this group nobody would have said we’d have a chance to be here,” Bieber said. “I’m proud of the way they really pulled it together at the end. They put me through every emotion known to mankind and they know it. But I just love this team. I loved it ever since it started pulling together. Finishing second’s a great accomplishment. It’s not really a low when you look at the whole season. It’s a high.”
One of the Vikings who left it all on the field this weekend was Deleware State-bound pitcher Amber Coburn. She threw a no-hitter and a pair of one hitters Friday.
“With our team you can’t be disappointed,” Coburn said, choking back tears. “No one expected us to come this far. We had a lot of people doubt us.”
Coeur d’Alene 4, Lake City 0: What had to be disappointing to the Timberwolves was being shut out in their final two games.
The bats that had been hot most of the season went dormant at an inopportune time.
“I think we decided to be disciplined in the batters box a little too late,” LC coach Laura Tolzmann said. “You can’t wait until the seventh inning to be disciplined in the box.”
Bouillard and Kraft led CdA with two hits each.
Tolzmann praised her team for a season that included league and regional titles.
“In the beginning we really didn’t have a catcher, we didn’t have any set positions except for Lela (Work, pitcher),” Tolzmann said. “So that’s what is kind of neat with our team. We grew as a team.”
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