Nearly everything about Saturday’s scenario looked familiar to the Mountain Home softball team.
Everything except the outcome, anyway – and that was a welcome change for the Tigers.
After ousting defending champion Kuna to reach the final, Mountain Home beat rival Emmett twice in a row to claim the 4A state title at Post Falls High after losing in the championship game each of the past two seasons. It was Mountain Home’s first state title in any team sport.
“This means everything. I’m so happy,” said Mountain Home pitcher Nickayla Skinner, a junior. “This is what I wanted last year.”
Once it had dispatched Kuna 2-1, Mountain Home defeated Emmett 2-1 in eight innings to force one final game in the double-elimination tournament, from which Lakeland was eliminated Friday.
The Tigers (26-6) had less trouble in the last contest, winning 10-2 behind seven solid innings from Skinner and a three-run first-inning homer from senior Kelsie Hopkins.
Blas Lord, the Tigers’ second hurler, provided critical relief in Game 1 against Emmett (22-10).
In the third inning with the score tied 0-0, Skinner’s right leg cramped. Lord replaced the starter and delivered four scoreless innings, striking out nine Emmett batters.
Loosened up again, Skinner returned to pitch the final two frames, and in the eighth Mountain Home parlayed two Emmett errors into the two crucial runs of its 2-1 victory.
“It comes down to pitching,” Mountain Home coach Chris Asbury said. “To ride one pitcher through the losers’ bracket is tough.”
With only one proven starting pitcher, Emmett coach Melissa Proctor said if the Huskies were to win the state title, “it had to be done in the first game” when McKenna Mattingly looked all but unhittable.
But Mattingly, who had sparkled in Emmett’s first three victories in the tournament, couldn’t deliver one final gem. Visibly tired after her fourth outing in three days, she ceded nine runs during the championship game.
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