The Lady Dragon softball team, once again, dominated the Idaho State Softball Tournament and returned home as the State Championship team. Of the eight teams that qualified for the double-elimination championship tournament, Malad was the only team to come into the final game undefeated. Their grit, determination, drive and skill led them to that final victory over West Jefferson to claim the title of State Champions.
The road to victory was anything but easy as they battled passed opponents very deserving of their place in the state tournament, but Malad was up to the task. After traveling to Orofino, Idaho for the state games, Malad first faced off against North Fremont, a team they had faced earlier in the season. Despite feeling sluggish and somewhat low energy from their 9+ hour drive to northern Idaho, the Lady Dragons defeated the Huskies, 10 to 0.
Malad was slow getting their hitting game up to speed, not getting a run on the board until in the second inning. Senior Maggie Willie managed a single hit to get on base, where she was also able to advance on an error to second. Bostyn Combs followed Willie with a hit to advance her to third base. Adley Kimberling then stepped up to bat, hitting a line drive to right field, giving Willie the chance to score Malad’s first run of the tournament.
Malad’s hitting and scoring finally took off in the bottom of the fourth where the Lady Dragons scored 6 runs against North Fremont. Willie, on base after a four ball count, worked her way around the bases as she took advantage of the Huskies errors and scored as Graycee Goddard hit a fly ball to the outfield. Combs ran in on the next play as Kaitlyn PIckett was up to bat, smacking the ball to shortstop on the first pitch. The team suffered two outs on the next play, but rather than getting discouraged, the team battled back in a big way.
Hallie Horsley stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and only one out remaining. With the count two to zero, Horsley sent the ball to center field. Goddard ran in on the hit, followed by Hadlee Summers, courtesy runner for Pickett. As the Huskies threw the ball in from center field to the pitcher, Horsely rounded first base to second. A dropped ball was just the error the Dragons needed, giving Madi Green the chance to run across home plate with Horsley on her heels to bring the score to Malad 7, North Fremont 0.
The MHS softball team managed three more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Anistyn Tovey was sent in as a pinch runner for Goddard and Summers in for Pickett as Tylee Venable was up to bat in place of Brylee Oglesbee. On a wild pitch, Tovey took third base and Summers moved on to second. Four pitches later, Venable was walked to first base. Green, up next to bat, hit a grounder to third base and Tovey went on to score another run for Malad. As Horsley slammed another ball towards third, Summers took off for home, beating the ball as the Huskies third baseman sailed it over to the catcher and tallying up the Dragon’s 9th run of the game. With Venable now on third, Riglee Peterson hit a sacrifice fly out to right field to bat in Venable for the final run of the game, bringing the end score, 10 to 0.
While the offense was slow getting off the ground against North Fremont, Malad’s defense was as solid as ever. The opening inning featured three outs on three hits, caught by Oglesbee at second, then a quick grab by Peterson on the pitching mound and then a caught fly ball by Beth McClain on third base. Throughout the game, the team snagged four more fly balls for outs. Peterson, struck out six opponents and allowed only two hits over the five innings.
The Dragon’s victory advanced them to their second game of the tournament against the New Plymouth Pilgrims who had defeated Melba the previous day. The Pilgrims defense was well played, making Malad work for each of the three runs they had at the end of the game.
Malad took a quick lead, scoring two runs in the first inning. After getting walked on base, Oglesbee ran the bases when Green hit a sly bunt that allowed the first score. After Horsley was walked on a count of four to two, Peterson hit a ground ball to shortstop to bat in Green to give them a two to zero lead over New Plymouth. The Lady Dragons didn’t score again until the sixth inning when Peterson hit a triple fly ball to right field and managed to round third base and score as the Pilgrim’s center field missed the catch from the outfield.
Horsley proved up to the crucial task of covering first base as she worked to put out eight of her opponents, getting the assist from teammates Peterson, McClain, Oglesbee and Green, while also grabbing two balls hit into first base territory. Horsley ended the game with a double play. With one on first, the Pilgrim batter took a swinging strike, then nicked a foul ball and managed a hit on the next pitch. Horsley quickly reached out to catch the ball off a hard line hit toward first base for the second out and then tagged the base to put the runner on first out to finish the count and claim the victory over the Pilgrims, 3-2.
After their face off against New Plymouth, the Lady Dragons came up against what many considered their toughest game of the tournament as they played the Lumberjacks from Saint Maries High School. The sole run of the game was awarded to Malad in the first inning. Pickett got a single line drive to center field to get on first base. Oglesbee followed with a sacrifice bunt. As Pickett took off from first base, she rounded second and slid into third as the ball came in from the Lumberjack’s pitcher. Saint Maries third baseman missed the catch and Pickett capitalized on the error to run in the one and only score for Malad.
Malad’s pitcher, Peterson held off the Lumberjack’s hitting over the seven inning game. The hurler faced twenty-two at bats, throwing ninety-two pitches in the game, seventy-two of those pitches turned strikes, ultimately striking out fourteen of her opponents without a single error or walk. The defense was once again honed in on connecting with first base, getting another three outs as they threw the ball to Horlsey. The team’s solid teamwork and defense kept their opponents scoreless, allowing only a single base over the seven innings to win the game, 1 to 0.
As the Lady Dragons prepared for the championship game, they faced a new challenge before they ever hit the field. Due to pouring rain, the game had to be moved, causing a delay to the game and another hour bus ride to the new venue in Lewiston. The girls managed to bring back their focus and energy as they opened up the game against the West Jefferson Panthers. West Jefferson considered this game to be a little unfinished business as they played and lossed to Malad in the championship round, just the year before. Malad and West Jefferson matched up on the field twice during the regular season, Malad taking the victory each time with a score of 5 to 2 and 4 to1.
The MHS softball team proved ready to take on the game and leave everything out on the field. The final game featured stellar hitting, pitching and defense from players across the field. The coaching and support from the dugout kept the energy high to lead the girls not only to victory, but to score the most runs of all their tournament games.
The team has focused on getting good hits and scoring runs early in the game. Their tried and true approach, once again, gave them an overwhelming lead as they scored six runs in the opening inning. Oglesbee, first on base after hitting a fly ball to right fielder on a full count, scored as Horsley was put out at first base. Peterson, who had advanced to third on Oglebee’s score, ran in a second run as Green had a hit to left field. Green rounded the bases for a third run when Adley Kimberling was up to bat and hit another fly ball to right field. Two plays later as Goddard hit again to the outfield, Kimberling ran passed third base to home plate for Malad’s fourth run. With Willie on third base, Combs hit a powerful triple to center field to get Willie another score. The Panthers couldn’t keep up with Combs as she raced around the bases to pull in a final run for the Dragons.
In the top of the second inning, West Jefferson managed to get three players on base but a quick throw from pitcher Peterson to catcher Pickett got the out at home to stop the run. Unfortunately, the Panthers managed two runs on the plays to follow, to bring the score to Malad 6, West Jefferson 3. Malad responded to the scores with a great catch and put out by shortstop Green, followed by a line out by second baseman Oglesbee. Their spot on defense kept the Panthers from building momentum and racking up the runs and gave the Dragons the opportunity they needed to build their lead.
The Lady Dragons hitting game went up another level as Peterson, Horsley and Green followed one another with double hits to bat in two more runs. Green scored as Willie followed with a single to shortstop to bring in three runs for the second inning.
The next innings proved to be a battle between two great defenses- both teams with flawless defense, committing zero errors. After several innings, Malad’s players and coaches were beginning to anticipate the Panther’s hitting. In the top of the fourth inning with one out to go, the coaches called centerfielder Combs to come in just a few steps. On the very next pitch, West Jefferson hit a fly ball straight to center field and into Comb’s glove to close the count and put Malad up to bat.
Peterson broke the scoreless streak as she blew a triple fly ball to center field to bat in Oglesbee for another Malad run. On the next play, Peterson scored as Horsley hit a line drive to the outfield. As Green was up to bat next, Horsley took advantage of West Jefferson’s wild pitch to advance to third base. On the next pitch, Green drove the ball to center field to bat in Horsley for Malad’s final score of the game.
Malad allowed a last run for the West Jefferson Panther’s in the top of the final inning as the first base runner advanced around the bases on their opponent’s only big hit of the game. Peterson reacted to the score by striking out her final batter to end the game and clench the victory for the Malad Lady Dragons.
The moment after that final pitch, the missed swing and closing catch brought cheers and screams of triumph from the players, the coaches and the crowd. After a season of hard work and dedication, the team’s efforts had taken them to that final moment of ultimate victory. All season long, Coach Schow had pushed her team to play like each game was their toughest matchup. Throughout the games, there were some frustrating moments when they weren’t hitting the gaps as they would have liked or when their opponents defense matched them with great line drive catches or pop fly snags. In the end, each game did honestly call on them to give their greatest effort and leave it all on the field.
Both players and coaches spoke of what an incredible season it has been for the team and how through the fun times and hard times, they have come together to accomplish something truly great. The team ends the season with a combined total of 308 hits, 102 of those hits being multiples, including 22 home runs for a total of 298 runs. Pitchers Peterson, Combs and Kaysha Beck threw a combined total of 1602 pitches in 26 games, allowing only 54 runs and striking out 166 opponents. While the coaches, players and fans already look to an exciting upcoming season, they are rightly basking in the glory of such a win and being the back to back 2A State Softball Champions.