NAMPA — Few are the dents in the armor of West Jefferson, the Class 2A power that blew through both the regular season and district tournament en route to its fourth straight state tournament appearance.
The Panthers, perennial juggernauts in their class, win on pitching and defense. Sophomore ace Jordyn Torgerson confounds hitters and helps herself at the plate. Her infield protects against the mistakes she makes, which have become rarer as the precocious star develops.
The dents are few and far between, but Malad has often been the one to supply them, like the 10-3 win in Friday’s 2A state matchup at West Park in Nampa.
“It’s Malad,” said West Jefferson coach Raquel Torgerson, whose team endured loss No. 3 of the season, second to Malad. “They’re one of the top teams. We had too many errors. You can’t have too many errors against good teams — and start late on the bats. State tournament, you can’t have any errors if you’re going to win.”
Torgerson was spot on. Defensive mistakes doomed the Panthers, who committed a jarring 10 of them in the loss. Weather conditions prompted some — light rain and gusty wind rerouted throws and made otherwise routine catches difficult — but the Dragons made them pay for the sloppiness.
Beside the scoreboard, the effects were most noticeable in the outing of Jordyn Torgerson, the team’s normally steady ace. On Friday, she yielded nine runs, one earned. Her pitching kept West Jefferson in the game. The mistakes took the Panthers out of it.
West Jefferson remained within striking distance until the sixth inning, when Malad broke the game open with three runs. In the seventh, the Dragons added another four. That’s when something curious happened: Torgerson came out of the game, which usually only happens when the Panthers are the ones with a big lead. Tables turned in the worst way for West Jefferson.
By then, though, the game was mostly out of reach. For that, thank Riley Dorius.
Malad’s superstar ace, who entered with a white-hot 0.92 ERA, two-hit West Jefferson. She struck out 10 and issued one walk. She wasn’t unhittable, but she came close, mixing speed with junk in ways that kept the Panthers guessing at the worst times.
Malad is now 23-0.
"That girl spends so much time getting better,” Malad coach Christie Schow said. “As a pitcher, it’s a combination of my catcher being smart calling pitches and she throws it where it needs to be thrown.”
“We see the same style of pitching,” Raquel Torgerson said, referring to her team’s conference. “When you see a pitcher who can throw a little bit more… A lot of it’s due to inexperience with our batters. We just didn’t hit the ball. We watched some go by and dug our own grave.”
The Panthers aren’t six feet under yet, though. With the loss, they moved to the loser’s side of the bracket, where they rebounded with a 9-0 win over New Plymouth some 20 minutes after falling to Malad.
That has a couple implications, but mostly this: West Jefferson can still snake back around to the right side of the bracket. Thanks to the win over New Plymouth, West Jefferson will take on St. Maries on Saturday morning. That winner advances back to the winner’s side, squaring off with the loser of the state semifinal. The winner of that game gets a spot in the state championship game.
That’s the place the Panthers have been angling for all season, in part because they’ve never been. They’ve been to state four years in a row, but they’ve never returned with a title. The closest they’ve come is a third-place finish in 2019.
All the Panthers can control, though, is where they are now. That’s a game against Saint Maries on Saturday. West Jefferson will bank on a return to normal from Torgerson, who fanned a dozen against New Plymouth on Friday evening.
If the Panthers are to get back to the right side of the 2A state bracket, their sophomore star will likely have something to do with it. She’s established the best kind of reputation, after all.
“You’ve got to move forward,” Raquel Torgerson said. “That’s something the kids have to learn, you know? Sometimes you fall short, and you’ve got to keep going. You can’t let the past dictate anything. One win at a time is how we get to the championship game. That’s our goal there.”
MALAD 10, WEST JEFFERSON 3
Malad 1 0 2 0 0 3 4 — 10 8 8
West Jefferson 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 — 3 2 10
MALAD — Pitchers: Riley Dorius 7.0 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 10 K, 1 BB. Leading hitters: Hallie Horsley 2-4, Kodi Phillips 2-4. RBI: Shaelie Ketchell 1, Horsley 1, Phillips 2, Adley Kimberling 1, Beth McClain 1.
WEST JEFFERSON — Pitchers: Jordyn Torgerson 6.0 IP, 6 H, 9 R, 1 ER, 3 K, 1 BB; Taya Calder 1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 K, 0 BB. Leading hitters: Torgerson 1-3, Londyn Wood 1-3. RBI: Natalie Brown 1.
WEST JEFFERSON 9, NEW PLYMOUTH 0
New Plymouth 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 2 4
West Jefferson 0 1 3 3 2 0 X — 9 8 2
NEW PLYMOUTH — Pitchers: Jewel Bell 3.1 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 5 K, 3 BB; Abi Robinson 1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 K, 1 BB. Leading hitters: Emma Myers 1-3, Afton Hoch 1-3. RBI: None.
WEST JEFFERSON — Pitchers: Jordyn Torgerson 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 12 K, 1 BB. Leading hitters: Kimbur Mechem 2-3, Trinity Smith 3-4. RBI: Mechem 1, Smith 2, Torgerson 1, Londyn Wood 2, Mckenna Neville 1.