First-year Coeur d’Alene softball coach Darren Taylor isn’t new to state tournaments.
Neither is the team Taylor inherited.
The Vikings are coming off a runner-up finish at state a year ago. They’ve been on a mission of redemption this season.
The problem is, defending state champ Eagle is 26-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation in the MaxPreps Top 25.
First things first, though. CdA (23-1), which had to win a play-in game to qualify, opens against Highland (24-3) Friday when the two-day tourney unfolds at Bonneville High School in Idaho Falls.
Lake City (19-6), which handed CdA its first loss in the regional title game, takes on Rocky Mountain (19-6).
Taylor is taking a team to state for a fifth time. He took four teams at Lake City to state, winning a title and finishing runner-up.
Now a teacher at CdA, Taylor is tickled to be taking a team to state at his alma mater.
“It was always my goal to be a coach at Coeur d’Alene. I’m honored to be part of it,” he said.
Taylor downplays his part in CdA returning to state.
“They would have made it no matter whether I was coaching or not,” he said.
What Taylor had to do was move some returning players into new positions to fill holes from graduation. He moved Jane Wilkey to first base and Miranda Amos to catcher. Both are seniors.
Taylor has high praise for the transition Amos made.
“She learned it well,” Taylor said. “She’s a good athlete obviously, with the family background.”
Amos is the daughter of CdA football coach Shawn Amos and sister to Gunnar Amos, a standout quarterback at CdA now playing at the University of Idaho.
Taylor discovered early that Amos had a knack at catcher.
“I thought I’d be calling pitches for half the season before I’d hand it over to her,” Taylor said. “She’s turned out to be a good pitch caller. I turned it over to her after the first game.”
Amos has also been a clutch hitter.
“She’s a two-out hitting machine,” Taylor said.
CdA’s glue has been senior pitcher Bre Burke, who signed with UNLV. She’s hitting .594 and is 21-1.
“She’s otherworldly,” Taylor said.
Taylor praised LC for beating the Vikings in the regional final. But he thinks the loss has strengthened his team’s resolve.
“Losing that game gave us some adversity,” said Taylor, whose team beat Greater Spokane League champ Shadle Park 4-0 in late April. “We really hadn’t had any. We handled it well.”
LC coach Jesse Lenz is taking his second team to state in his second year as coach. He’s watched a young team mature through the season, enduring four tough league losses to CdA before upsetting the Vikings.
“We’re trying to stay focused on the goal ahead and not just being satisfied with beating Coeur d’Alene for the regional title,” Lenz said. “I feel like we’re heading in the right direction with how we’re trending.”
Eight teams make up a tourney field, but it might not matter with Eagle in the mix. On the surface, it appears the other seven are playing for second.
Consider these numbers. The Mustangs have hit 63 home runs, two shy of matching their final number from a year ago. That tied for second most by an team in the nation, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations’ record book. The record is 71.
Ten of Eagle’s 13 players have hit homers.
Eagle features two pitchers. Bradie Fillmore, who has signed with California, has a 0.51 ERA in 58 innings with 132 strikeouts and 12 walks. Autumn Moffat, who has committed to BYU, has an 0.69 ERA with 83 strikeouts and 15 walks.
The Mustangs have outscored opponents 353-21.
Taylor and Lenz would like a shot at Eagle.
“We have the utmost respect for that team, but we’re not going to lie down because they’re Eagle,” Lenz said.
The challenge for CdA and LC this weekend might be beyond their control. The weather forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms starting Thursday and continuing through Saturday.
4A: Sandpoint (13-7) returns to state for the first time since 2003.
The Bulldogs open play Friday against host Twin Falls.
3A: Bonners Ferry romped through league play before Timberlake tripped the Badgers in the district title game. Bonners Ferry earned a state berth in a play-in game.
State begins Friday at Ward Park in Pocatello. Bonners Ferry (24-3) takes on Homedale (23-2) and Timberlake (12-6) takes on Kimberly.
2A: At Blackfoot, St. Maries (12-7) meets Bear Lake (12-7) in an opener Friday.
4A Regional: Last year, not one GSL team qualified for state, which is held at Merkel Complex.
That should change Saturday.
The Mid-Columbia Conference’s best collides with the GSL’s best at University.
Games will be played on two fields. In openers, University (17-4) goes against MCC champ Walla Walla (22-2) and Central Valley (15-7) takes on Richland (19-4-1). Both games are at 2.
The winners face off to decide the regional champ and top two berths to state while the losers meet in an elimination game to determine the third seed to state. Both games are at 4.
3A Regional: MCC and GSL also play at U-Hi, but earlier Saturday.
Top seeds Shadle Park (17-3) and Kamiakin (9-12) decide the top seed to state while Mt. Spokane (15-7) and Hanford (8-14) meet in a loser-out game. Both games are at 10.
The Mt. Spokane/Hanford winner and the Shadle/Kamiakin loser play at noon to decide a second seed to state.
2A glue-in games: Cheney (13-10) knocked off league champ West Valley (13-8) in the district title game. Both teams await results from the Central Washington Athletic Conference tourney that began Tuesday and concludes Thursday.
Cheney has a home game against the CWAC No. 4 seed on Saturday to decide a state berth and WV travels to CWAC No. 3 to decide another berth. Both games are at 1.
District 7 1A: The Northeast A sends three teams to state when play concludes Saturday at Colville.
Colville and Lakeside finished as co-league champs, but Colville hosts because it had a better seed in a preseason draw in case of a tie.
Chewelah (16-5) takes on Colville (18-1) and Deer Park (12-7) meets Lakeside (18-2) in openers at 11.
The winners play at 1 to decide the district title and top two seeds to state and the losers meet in an elimination game to determine a third seed to state. Both games are at 1.
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