When healthy, the Lake City softball is capable of another run through the state 5A tournament like those of the title teams in 2011 and 2013.
This just in, they’re healthy again.
Lake City (20-4), winners of 15 of its first 17 games, had a bit of a hiccup late in the season with 5A Inland Empire League splits against Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene — at home — before romping past the Trojans 10-0 and Lewiston 12-1 to advance to the state tournament.
“We had some very trying times through the season with injuries and players being gone,” Lake City coach Jesse Lenz said. “But everyone has a role, and they’ve fulfilled that role. We’ve had freshmen step up, and had juniors and seniors lead the way.”
Lake City was without pitcher Ashley Kaufman with an ankle injury in the final two weeks of the regular season. She returned for regionals, getting the win in both games.
Lake City opens at state on Friday against Mountain View High of Meridian (20-5) at Capell Park in Chubbuck.
Three-time champion Eagle (25-1-1) opens with Bonneville.
“The south is looking tough again this year,” Lenz said. “State week is fun. It’s busy, with a long ride for us again this year. There’s quality teams again, and we’ve got to be ready to go right out of the gate.”
Lake City advanced to the semifinal game last year with wins over Meridian and Highland, then had the tournament washed out due to rain before being completed on a Sunday. On that final day, Lake City lost to Eagle 9-4, beat Boise 9-6 and came up short to Eagle 4-3 in the title game.
“We really wanted to come back after last year’s loss,” said Lake City senior Reilly Williams, who has signed with the University of Montana. “That loss in the title game kind of stung and we’re going to keep pushing until we get a state title. I think seeing them twice last year give us a good heads up knowing a lot of those same players are back this year. We know what they’re going to bring, and we’ve got to do our best.”
“We were right there with Eagle last year,” Lake City senior pitcher McKenzie Wilson said. “We can definitely do it this year. It’s possible for us. I think we can definitely win.”
Post Falls did not have the recent history, but did have the attitude of a team itching to get back to state.
“We just had to believe,” said first-year head coach Holly Gleaves, an assistant in the Trojans’ program the past four years, including the last two seasons as varsity assistant.
Post Falls (13-12), at state for the first time since winning it all in 2010, takes on Rocky Mountain (25-2) of Meridian in the first round on Friday at 8 a.m. at Capell Park in Chubbuck.
The Trojans had not had a winning season since ’10, but made progress the last three seasons, going 29-43 under Brian Stranger.
“The program has gotten better and better the last few years,” Gleaves said. “We tried to keep that consistency going.”
Gleaves said Post Falls has had to deal with injuries both early and late in the season.
Pitcher Amanda Rouse, who has signed with Skagit Valley of the Northwest Athletic Conference, missed some games early while recovering from offseason surgery. Gleaves praised the work of junior Dinah Seymour, who “did a great job keeping us in games” early in the season.
When Rouse returned, Gleaves brought her along slowly. Rouse has struck out 88 in 99 1/3 innings this season.
“We have a roster of 13, and all of them at different times, were huge,” Gleaves said.
Senior Kyndra Hans (.464) and junior Bailey Gleaves (.429), daughter of the coach, lead the Post Falls offense.
Eagle, the defending state champion which was upset at districts, is also on Post Falls’ side of the bracket.
Timberlake (14-4) and Bonners Ferry (15-1) could be on a collision course to meet in the championship game for the second straight year.
Bonners beat Timberlake last year for the Badgers’ first state title in softball.
Timberlake’s runner-up finish tied for its second-best ever. The Tigers also were second in 2007.
“Bonners didn’t lose anybody,” said third-year Timberlake coach Casi Reisenauer, who played on the Tigers’ first state-qualifying team in 2000. “We lost a few seniors, but what we lost, we gained in freshmen.”
Shelby Starr, one of just two seniors on the Timberlake roster, is hitting a whopping .662, with 3 home runs and 31 RBIs. Junior Becca Malloy is batting .449, and is 10-2 in the circle with 60 strikeouts in 66 innings.
“With the freshmen ... you never really know what’s going to happen,” Reisenauer said. “I knew I had a good group of juniors coming back. I just got lucky with the group of kids that I got this year.”
Timberlake, in its 19th straight trip to state, opens vs. Marsh Valley on Friday at 8 a.m. PDT at Bonneville High in Idaho Falls.
Because of rainouts, Timberlake played just three games prior to April 18, spending much of that time practicing indoors.
“We were getting cabin fever,” Reisenauer said.
St. Maries is back at state for the third straight year, and for the seventh time in Todd Bitterman’s 11 seasons as coach.
St. Maries (15-1) opens vs. West Side on Friday at 8 a.m. at O.K. Ward Park in Pocatello.
“The six seniors that we’ve got have been leading by example,” Bitterman said.
Four of those seniors are hitting .500 or better — Devyn Wilson (.597), Kaylee Auer (.517), Lauryn Hill (.509) and Katie Masterson (.500).
“We’ve just been hitting the ball up and down the lineup,” Bitterman said.
Of concern, he said, is the ’Jacks struggling in the circle in the district tournament.
“We’ve got to get that dialed back in,” he said.
Defending champion New Plymouth is on the other side of the bracket.
Sandpoint (10-10), which beat Lakeland last Saturday for its third straight regional title, opens Friday at 8 a.m. PDT vs. defending state champion Middleton (25-2) at Blackfoot High.
The Bulldogs finished third at state last year.