Friday, May 12, 2006

Lady Wolverines headed to state

Come-from-behind victory earns softball team district championship

Express Staff Writer

Things didn't look good for the Wolverines in the district softball championship game. They were down 5-1 in the sixth inning to the Jerome Tigers, who severely mauled the Wolverines in two regular season matches.

Tuesday evening in Jerome, the Tigers were anxious for vengeance after being upset by Wood River only 24 hours earlier.

But three quick singles showed that the Wolverines still had life. One run scored making it 5-2.

Two runners still on base, Wolverine freshman Samantha Engel stepped to the plate.

Bam -- ball over the fence -- game tied!

The Wolverine's no-quit attitude seemed to rattle Jerome -- the team expected to win the championship. The Tigers scored one in the top of the seventh, but allowed the Wolverines to load the bases in the bottom of the inning.

And in anticlimactic but decisive fashion, the Tigers walked in Wood River's tying and winning runs.

End of game. Final score: Wood River High School 7, Jerome High School, 6.

The victory gave the Wolverines the 4th District 4A fast-pitch softball championship and earned them a berth in next week's state tournament.

"I'm thinking that we're in trouble," Wolverines coach Dale Martin said Wednesday. "But you don't give up on this team. They're going to battle and somehow they're going to win it.

"They were terrible in the first inning," he said. "They make mistakes but they don't let it bother them. They've got such a winning attitude -- but I think I've got a few more gray hairs this year."

The Wolverines, 13-7, were 3-0 in the tournament. Monday they defeated Burley 2-1 and Jerome 9-7. Tuesday's victory gave them 10 wins in their last 11 outings.

Martin said Tuesday's win was euphoric. "The girls still haven't come down," he said. "It's exciting. Our girls are sky high. I don't think any of them slept last night -- they all looked so tired today."

In addition to the game-tying home run, Engel, 10-5, pitched all seven innings for the win. Her performance though, wasn't as strong as it was Monday against Burley when she stuck out 18 and threw a stingy two-hitter.

"Engel didn't have her good arm last night," Martin said. "She struggled, but she's a battler. She gets stronger as the game goes on."

She gave up 11 hits to the Tigers but scattered them out to keep the Wolverines within striking distance. She struck out five.

Wolverines Hannah Gove and Trista Behr had two hits each. Venessa Valentine hit a triple in the seventh and scored the tying run. Other hits were recorded by Jamie Stone, who scored twice, and by Dani Stone and Angela Coleman.

The district championship is the third for the Wolverines. They also won the title in 1998 and 2002. It will be their fifth trip to the state softball tournament. Their best finish was fourth place in 2003.

Thursday at 5 p.m. the Wolverines host Pocatello High School, the winner of the 5th District 4A championship to determine the winner of the Great Basin Conference and to determine seeding for the state tournament, which starts Thursday, May 18 in Pocatello.

The possibility exists that the Wolverines will meet archrival Jerome again in state tournament play. The Tigers could still win a berth if they win games this weekend against Eastern Idaho opponents.

"Our girls aren't afraid of them," said Martin. "They just go out and battle them. They believe in themselves. I wouldn't trade them for anyone. They're just a great bunch of girls. There's not one of them I wouldn't be proud to have as a daughter."

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