COEUR d’ALENE — With two days of 4A state softball games crammed into six hours thanks to rain, Idaho Falls packed a bunch of clutch pitching, defense and hitting into an intense Saturday afternoon in North Idaho.
But in the final, perennial state power Bishop Kelly had one more key baserunning play and RBI single than the Tigers, as the Knights squeezed out a 1-0 victory over Idaho Falls at Coeur d’Alene High School. It was Bishop Kelly’s 11th state title.
There were tears and hugs between Tiger players after the final out — and plenty of pride from Idaho Falls parents, fans and coaches, who cheered the Tigers’ first championship game appearance in recent memory.
“This is the furthest Idaho Falls has been in a long, long time,” Tigers coach Traci Wilkinson said. “This team, and our eight seniors, had a great season. When they were freshmen, I knew we could get to state with them, and they proved me right.”
The championship — like the rest of Saturday’s single-elimination bracket, shortened to five innings due to Friday’s postponements — was a pitchers’ duel between Idaho Falls senior Kennedy Burton and Bishop Kelly starter Jaylynn Stinson.
An error, fielder’s choice and Kennedy Burton single put Tiger Kennedy Robertson on third with two outs in the top of the second, but a lengthy at-bat by Macy Coordon ended in a strikeout.
Kendal Sullivan led off the bottom of the third with a walk, advanced on a sacrifice bunt, then took third on a delayed steal, barely beating the tag on a close play. She scored on Addison Ribordy’s two-out smash down the third-base line, giving the Knights (24-7) the only run they would need.
“We’ve been working with our baserunners to identify when they can make the call (to steal),” Bishop Kelly coach Missy Nichols said. “Kendal Sullivan made that choice on the delayed steal, and it ended up being a huge play.”
Nichols brought in Riley Jones to pitch the final two innings, and Kennedy Burton put the pressure on with a leadoff single to start the fifth. Cordon’s sacrifice bunt and Hannah Gardner’s groundout advanced Burton to third, but one final striketout ended the game.
Burton struck out four Knights and allowed only one hit and one walk in the contest. She also had both of Idaho Falls’ hits. Among the strong defense behind her was a running catch in the right-centerfield gap by right fielder Kennedy Robertson.
“Overall, I think our pitchers pitched well and our defense played very well all day,” Wilkinson said. “This is a very talented group of girls, a good group of girls, and there’s nothing they should feel sad about from this day.”
The high point for Idaho Falls (24-5) was in its opening game against Ridgevue (20-8). With the tournament shortened to single elimination, and each game only five innings, the Tigers faced an early deficit before tying the Warhawks in the fourth inning.
In the sixth and subsequent “extra” innings, each team came to bat with a runner on second base. Neither team scored in the sixth, but in the seventh, Ridgevue had a runner on third with one out, and she raced home on a hard-hit ball up the middle. Tigers second baseman Jaidyn Clement snared it and fired to catcher Shaylee Robertson for the out to keep the game tied.
In the bottom of the seventh, Kennedy Burton raced home on Gardner’s sacrifice fly to left field, advancing Idaho Falls into the semifinals.
“That was a great game,” Wilkinson said of the opener. “When Ridgevue scored their run, I was a nervous wreck the whole game. Then we tied it up, and when we had a chance to score, we took advantage of it.”
Idaho Falls then used a third-inning outburst to take control of a 7-2 semifinal win over Pocatello, with Kennedy Burton’s twin sister Madi Burton earning the complete-game win on the mound.
BISHOP KELLY 1, IDAHO FALLS O
IF 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 3 0
BK 0 0 1 0 x — 1 1 0
IDAHO FALLS — Pitchers: Kennedy Burton 4.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 K, 1 BB. Leading hitters: K. Burton 2-2.
BISHOP KELLY — Pitchers: Jaylynn Stinson 3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 5 K, 0 BB; Riley Jones 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 K, 1 BB. RBI: Addison Ribordy.
IDAHO FALLS 7, POCATELLO 2
Pocatello 1 1 0 0 0 — 2 4 1
IF 0 0 7 0 x — 7 9 1
POCATELLO — Pitchers: Hannah Evans 4.0 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 2 ER, 2 K, 1 BB. Leading hitters: 2B: Cassity Jenkins. RBI: Jenkins.
IDAHO FALLS — Pitchers: Madi Burton 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 K, 1 BB. Leading hitters: Macie Cordon 2-2, Hannah Gardner 2-2. 2B: Kaitlin Moss, Cordon. HR: Kennedy Burton. RBI: K. Burton 2, M. Burton, Moss 2, Olivia Hillam, Jaidyn Clement.
IDAHO FALLS 2, RIDGEVUE 1
Rvue 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 — 1 2 4
IF 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 — 2 3 0
RIDGEVUE — NA
IDAHO FALLS — Pitchers: Kennedy Burton 7.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 K, 1 BB. Leading hitters: RBI: Emma Williams, Hannah Gardner.