BLACKFOOT — If there was one team that would likely be standing in the way of Idaho Falls earning a trip to the 4A state softball tournament, it would be Blackfoot.
The Broncos defeated the Tigers during the regular season and earned homefield advantage for the district tournament.
The Tiger seniors proved that that one game was essentially meaningless on Thursday, defeating top-seeded Blackfoot twice to clinch the 4A District 6 tournament title and a berth to state.
In the championship game, Idaho Falls rallied, and when the game was on the line, Tiger hitters came through while Blackfoot struggled under the pressure as I.F. celebrated an 8-2 victory.
It’s Idaho Falls’ first district championship since 2015 when the team was in 5A.
Pitcher Madi Burton credited the team’s core group of eight seniors for pushing the team into the postseason and being able to overcome the wild momentum shifts during Thursday’s championship game.
“That’s how our team runs off of momentum,” said Burton, who pitched the final four innings for the win. “All it takes is one play and everybody knows it’s time to kick in. Unfortunately it was later in the game, but we figured it out.”
Blackfoot (15-4) led 1-0 into the fourth inning as Bronco starter Kymber Wieland held the Tiger lineup in check. Kennedy Robertson belted a homer to left to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth, but the momentum change quickly turned back in Blackfoot’s favor the following inning when Malia Taufu’i hit a homer to right to stake the Broncos to a 2-1 lead.
But that proved to be the last highlight for Blackfoot. The Tigers sent 10 batters to the plate in the fifth, taking advantage of two Bronco errors and a couple of misplayed balls in the outfield. Burton started the onslaught with a sacrifice bunt that turned into a throwing error and a run. Jaidyn Clement followed with an infield hit that scored the go-ahead run, and when the Tigers were finally finished, they led 6-2.
“Our biggest momentum direction of change was when Madi laid down the bunt,” coach Traci Wilkinson said. “That’s when they felt the pressure and that’s when we started scoring all those runs … (We) were really uptight at the beginning. Once they started getting the hits and they started relaxing and everything started falling into place.”
The Tigers defeated the Broncos in Thursday’s earlier semifinal, so any carryover from the regular-season loss was probably minimal.
“Coming into this game we knew what was on the line and we wanted to get it done tonight,” Burton said.
Idaho Falls finished fourth at last year’s state tournament.
“State is going to be tough so we’ll have to bring our A game,” Wilkinson said. “We’re there. We just need to tweak a few things.”
4A District 6 championship game
IDAHO FALLS 8, BLACKFOOT 2
Blackfoot 1 0 0 0 1 0 — 2 8 4
Idaho Falls 0 0 0 1 5 2 X — 8 9 1
BLACKFOOT — Pitchers: Kymber Wieland 5.1 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 5 ER, 3 K, 4 BB. Leading Hitters: Chloe Cronquist 2-2, Malia Taufu’I 1-3, Grace Calister 1-3, Vicky Agado 1-1, Tylar Dalley 1-4, Ahna Yancey 1-4, Kyah Henderson 1-4. 2B; Cronquist, Yancey. HR: Taufu’i. RBI: Cronquist, Taufu’i.
IDAHO FALLS — Pitchers: Kennedy Burton 3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 K, 0 BB; Madi Burton 4 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 R, 5 K, 0 BB. Leading Hitters: Kennedy Robertson 2-4, Jaidyn Clement 1-3, Kaitlin Moss 1-4, K. Burton 2-3, Hannah Gardner 1-2. 2B: Gardner. HR: Robertson. RBI: K. Burton 2, Moss 2, Clement.
IDAHO FALLS 5, BLACKFOOT 1
Idaho Falls 002 012 0 — 5 5 1
Blackfoot 000 010 0 — 1 6 2
IDAHO FALLS — Pitchers: Madi Burton 4 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 K, 1 BB; Kennedy Burton 3 IP, 2 H, 2 BB. Leading Hitters: M. Burton 1-4, Jaidyn Clement 3-4, Kennedy Robertson 1-4, K. Burton 2-3. 2B: K. Burton 2. RBI: Robertson 2, M. Burton.
BLACKFOOT — Pitchers: Kymber Wieland 7 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 7 K, 4 BB. Leading Hitters: Ahna Yancey 2-4, Kyah Henderson 1-1, Tylar Dalley 1-3, Grace Callister 1-3, Maggie Hepworth 1-3. 2B: Dalley. RBI: Yancey.