Issue of: May 20, 1998  

 

Close games thrill Wolverine softball fans at state

Wood River digs out of hole, rallies past Diggers 11-10


They gave their devoted fans plenty of thrills by playing two exciting 1-run games during the State A-2 softball tournament Thursday and Friday at Frontier Field in Twin Falls. And the Wood River High School softball team pulled out one of the nailbiters, in thrilling and memorable fashion.

Senior Kali Goicoechea ripped a 2-run single to right field completing a 3-run seventh-inning rally that lifted Wood River over the Sugar-Salem Diggers 11-10 in Friday’s loser bracket game of the eight-team double elimination tournament. Wood River had trailed 7-1 after three innings but never gave up.

Wood River boasted heroes galore in winning its first-ever state fast-pitch tournament game, none bigger than junior lefty Debbie Rubel. Rubel relieved control-troubled starter Lora Alder (4 walks) with one out in the first inning and pitched a whale of a game—allowing 5 hits and walking no Diggers in six-plus innings.

Benefiting from solid defense led by shortstop Abby Sherbine and second baseman Goicoechea, Rubel (9-5) struck out the final two Sugar-Salem batters to assure Wood River (15-14, 1-2 state) of its second consecutive winning season on the softball diamond. Indeed, Rubel (one walk in 12-plus innings) pitched two fine games at state including Thursday’s 5-4 loss to Payette.

Fourth-place Bear Lake (23-8) eliminated Wood River 13-1 Friday, and Bishop Kelly of Boise (22-5) captured its second straight state championship 4-1 over Lakeland (19-7) Saturday. In third place was Snake River (20-7), a 9-8 winner over Payette and 5-1 loser to Lakeland in Saturday’s semi-final.

Overall, participating at state was a tremendous learning experience for a young Wood River squad that started two seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen against Sugar-Salem. The Wolverines faced the kind of scary fastball pitching they hadn’t seen all season and took a crash course in making certain adjustments at the plate.

Thursday, Payette’s sophomore dart thrower Ashlie Christian (13 strikeouts) whiffed eight Wolverines in the first three innings. Fortunately Wood River third baseman Stefani Miller (3 RBI) cracked a two-out single that scored 2 unearned runs in the first. After Payette’s senior-laden squad grabbed a 3-2 lead in the first, it became a pitching duel between Christian and Rubel.

With one out in the fifth, Wolverine center fielder Jamie Menges (2 runs) drilled a solo homer into the left center gap for a 3-3 tie. Catcher Aja Dailey reached on an error and scored on Miller’s sacrifice fly for a 4-3 Wolverine lead. In the home half, Menges made a fine outfield catch, retreating on a hard-hit ball, and Dailey threw out a runner on the basepaths, Miller applying the tag.

Payette, trailing by a run and down to its final five outs, got a clutch sixth-inning hit from #8 batter Danielle Holloway. She belted a 0-2 pitch for a 2-run homer and a 5-4 Pirate lead. And that’s the way it ended, as the Wolverines couldn’t capitalize on Rubel’s leadoff bunt single in the seventh—Wood River’s third and final hit. Payette had 10 hits by eight different players.

The outcome put Wood River up against Sugar-Salem, a 5-1 loser to Snake River. Coaches Chris Cey and Dale Martin sent soph righthander Alder (4-4) to the mound and kept their fingers crossed. Alder had pitched two shutouts for Wood River in the district tourney. But this was state. The talented young hurler never found her rhythm.

By the time Rubel entered in relief from her first base position and put out the fire, Sugar-Salem led 6-1. Rubel threw strikes, allowing only 1 hit and 1 run in the next three innings and setting down the Diggers 1-2-3 on two occasions. Meanwhile, Wood River finally solved Diggers senior pitcher Lana Woodbury.

Lightning struck in the top of the fourth inning.

Wood River, sending 11 batters to the plate, scored 7 runs on 5 hits for a startling 8-7 lead. Dailey (3 hits, 2 RBI) and Miller stroked singles. Designated hitter Rebecca Engel fouled off three pitches on a 3-2 count and hammered an RBI single to left. Sherbine drew a walk with the bases loaded and Goicoechea (3 RBI) ripped an RBI single to her favorite pasture, right field.

Sugar-Salem still led 7-4, with two outs, when a first-pitch bouncer to the pitcher’s box by Menges (2 hits, 2 runs) was bobbled by Woodbury and misplayed for an error on the throw to first base. Two Wolverines scampered home like bandits. Clean-up hitter Dailey made it hurt scraping a low pitch off the ground for a 2-run single—Menges just beating the throw home on a very, very close call at the plate.

Wood River crept ahead 8-7.

Moving in for the kill, Wood River installed its leadoff hitters in scoring position in the fifth and sixth frames but just couldn’t score. The Wolverines were hitting the ball hard, with some authority, but the line drives were going straight to the Digger fielders.

In the home fifth, Sugar-Salem continued the seesaw battle by scoring twice for a 9-8 lead. Goicoechea thwarted the rally by catching a pop fly and throwing to Dailey for an inning-ending twin killing. In the sixth, the Diggers pushed another run across and led 10-8. Wood River was down to its final three outs with the bottom of the batting order up.

With one out, senior Aaron Molyneux (3 hits, 2 runs) lifted a single to center and Engel (2 hits) pounded a single to left. Sherbine had a great at-bat, drawing her second walk on a full count, and freshman #9 hitter Becky Hylton followed Abby’s example—working hard for a free pass with the bases loaded on a 3-2 count.

That made it 10-9. Leadoff hitter Goicoechea wasted no time, sending the first pitch into right field for what became the game-winning hit. Sherbine rounded third base at full steam and just beat the throw home. 11-10 Wood River. Then, in the home half, Molyneux made an outstanding scoop at first base on Sherbine’s throw for the first out. Rubel whiffed the final two Diggers. 1-2-3.

Wood River outhit Sugar-Salem 13-6. Everybody figured into the team triumph including pinch runners Lacy Glazer and Bri Salmon.

That game was the tournament highlight for Wood River, although the coaching staff was pleased Alder came back and pitched five innings of strikes in the run-rule loss to Bear Lake later Friday. The Bears outhit Wood River 13-1, but the Wolverines continued to play strong defense with just 2 errors in their final game.

WOLVERINE NOTES: In three years of fast pitch, Wood River is 45-37 including two straight winning seasons. The school’s seven-year softball mark is 79-111….Wood River outscored opponents 312-307 on the season, or 10.8 runs per game offense against 10.6 defense.

Wood River fared better than Buhl, which traveled to Coeur d’Alene last May and lost 21-1 to Lakeland and 14-0 to Marsh Valley. Bishop Kelly beat Moscow 3-2 for last year’s title. Bishop Kelly, Lakeland and Bear Lake were returning state teams in 1998….

The Filer Wildcats rooted for Wood River during the Payette game. Filer (24-8) won a couple of 1-run games before falling to West Side 11-1 in the State A-3 consolation final….At Rupert, Coeur d’Alene (24-9) denied Centennial (25-7) a fourth straight A-1 title, coming through the loser bracket with six wins including thrilling 3-2 (8 innings) and 4-2 championship game triumphs. Twin Falls (23-9, 1-2 at state) had beaten Coeur d’Alene 2-1 in the opening game.

 

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