The Wood River High School varsity softball team didn't perform as well this year as coach Dale Martin would have liked, but he's looking forward to next season as both of his starting pitchers are set to return to the lineup as well as the majority of his heavy hitters.
The Wolverines, last year's Great Basin Conference West champions, had to settle for third this season after falling 7-6 in an extra inning clash with the Jerome Tigers in tournament play Tuesday in Burley. The loss ended the season for Wolverines, who finished 11-15 overall and 4-5 in conference play.
Burley ended up the conference winner after defeating Jerome 14-3 later Tuesday. Both the Bobcats and the Tigers qualified for the state 4A tournament, which starts May 17 in Nampa.
The Wolverines started the tournament on a high note with an 8-3 win over Jerome on Monday, only to fall later that day in a 2-0 defensive battle against Burley.
Wood River coach Dale Martin characterized Tuesday's loss to Jerome as typical of the Wolverine's year.
"It was parallel to our season," he said. "We played well the whole game except for one mistake and that cost us the game."
With sophomore ace Samantha Engel on the mound, the Wolverines grabbed an early 4-0 lead in the first and second innings, but Jerome mounted a comeback, scoring in the fourth, sixth and seventh frames to leave the scored tied 4 apiece at the end of regulation play.
Wood River scored twice in the eighth, but Jerome scored three times to secure the win.
Engel took the loss to end the season at 7-9. Junior Hannah Gove, Wood River's other starting pitcher, finished at 4-6.
Martin said Engel and Gove are as good as any pitchers in the conference and he's pleased that both of them will return to the roster next year.
The coach said that Wood River's weak spot this year was defense, with the team recording too many errors and giving up too many unearned runs. Take away a few key errors and Wood River could have finished the season with 18 or 19 wins rather than 11, Martin said.
"We're a better softball team than our record," he said. "We just weren't a very good defense team.
Offense was another story, and Martin said he's happy that his top five hitters will return for slugging duties next season. The top hitters this year were Engel and sophomore Angela Coleman who tied with battering averages of .420. Sophomore Dani Stone pounded out a .366 average, followed by Gove who hit .360. Junior Molly Floyd rounded out the top five with a batting average of .333.
Although he expected more from his team this year, Martin said that's the way it sometimes goes in sports.
"I've coached for 40 years and nothing surprises me anymore," he said. "I don't do this for the wins and losses—if I did I would have quit a long time ago—I do it for the kids.
These are good girls," Martin said. "They're a neat bunch to be around. I'm down a little because we lost, but I feel good about the future."