Wood River High School sophomore third baseman Taylor Gove picked the perfect time to hammer her first-ever varsity home run Thursday.
In the fifth inning of a tight 2-0 battle with the Preston Indians, Gove belted a 0-2 offering to left for a three-run homer and scampered around the bases like her life depended on it. "I'm going to have to teach you a home run trot," said coach Dale Martin said to Gove after the game, with a smile.
Gove's one-out blast capped a four-run uprising that gave senior pitcher Samantha Engel all the runs she needed in a 5-1 win over Preston, in Hailey.
The result gave Wood River its first-ever Great Basin Conference first-place crown after second-place finishes to Pocatello in 2008 and 2006. It gave the Wolverines a head of steam heading into the State 4A tourney May 14-16 in Post Falls.
Engel (14-9, 36-30 career) tossed a complete-game two-hitter with five strikeouts and one walk. Red-hot Wood River (14-10) won its sixth consecutive game by a 35-4 margin. In their last 49 innings, the Wolverines have allowed six runs.
"We're playing with confidence," said Martin before the Wolverines headed off Tuesday afternoon on the long trip to northern Idaho where Hailey will compete in its seventh state softball tournament.
Engel's pitching has made a huge difference. She has started 23 of Hailey's 24 games.
She held Preston scoreless for the first five innings Thursday at South Valley Sports Complex. That was quite a feat against a Cinderella Preston team that had pulled off three straight miracle wins—8-6 over Century and 5-3 and 3-2 over Pocatello, all on clutch homers by freshman Regan Hyde.
This time, Hyde went hitless against Engel. Wood River (8 hits) struck first for a 1-0 lead in the third. Shortstop Josie Dawson (2 hits, 2 runs) cracked a leadoff single and scored on a two-out, RBI double by junior catcher Alex Lindbloom.
In the home fifth, Dawson got it going again with a leadoff single on a 2-2 pitch up the middle. She stole second and went to third on a passed ball and scored when senior Angela Coleman whacked a 2-0 pitch off the center field fence for a run-scoring double and 2-0 lead.
Lindbloom, plunked, made it to first and with one out, Taylor Gove (2 hits) lifted a high pitch over the fence by the scoreboard. Her teammates circled Gove as she arrived at home plate, happily pounding on her helmet. Freshman Haylee Thompson (double) added two hits for the Hailey winners.