4A REGION 1 SOFTBALL: Lakeland tops Sandpoint for state berth
JASON DUCHOW PHOTOGRAPHY Lakeland High softball coach Colleen Bevacqua celebrates with her players, including Haylee Smit (17), after the Hawks defeated Sandpoint to win the 4A Region 1 softball championship Saturday in Rathdrum.
JASON DUCHOW PHOTOGRAPHY Lakeland pitcher Devry Bursch (8) flips the ball to Delaney Gosch (24) at first base Saturday, as Via Barlow of Sandpoint closes in on the bag. Barlow was safe on the play.
By MARK NELKE
RATHDRUM — Sandpoint and Lakeland have developed quite the softball rivalry over the past seven seasons.
And for 3 1/2 innings on Saturday, things were trending in Sandpoint's direction this year, with the Bulldogs leading by five runs.
But Lakeland had four more at-bats — emphasis on bats.
The host Hawks scored nine straight runs and went on to hold off the Bulldogs 13-11 in the winner-take-all, Game 3 of the 4A Region 1 softball championship series.
"Our team can hit really well; I wasn’t even scared," said Lakeland junior Haylee Smit, who finished 4 for 4 with four RBIs and three runs scored. "We like to take it the hard way; come back and fight."
Lakeland (12-15) advances to state Friday and Saturday at Skyview Park in Nampa. The Hawks open vs. Ridgevue of Nampa on Friday at 10 a.m. PDT.
"I’m just really proud of them; they played great as a team, and they really came together," Lakeland coach Colleen Bevacqua said. "It was really a full team effort ... everyone contributed."
Sandpoint, which won Game 1 of the series 8-5 in Rathdrum before falling 13-4 at home in Game 2, finishes 9-18.
"I was very proud of how hard this team worked to get here, and be competitive in regionals," Sandpoint coach Elizabeth Hawkins-Williams said. "Because up to this point we’ve struggled scoring, we’ve struggled on defense. To wrap it up with such a strong performance today, it really is great to see … in today’s game, they worked hard, they came back when they needed to. I really am very proud of this group and how hard it worked."
Either Sandpoint or Lakeland have won the last six regional titles — Sandpoint won three straight (2016-18), and Lakeland won in 2015 and ’19 before winning this year.
Senior Kinzie Ward hit a two-run homer for Sandpoint in the top of the first inning. Smit doubled in a run in the bottom half, and Olivia Staudinger's RBI single put the Hawks up 3-2.
Sandpoint scored six runs in the top of the fourth to take a 9-4 lead. Riley Cessna, who finished 2 for 5 with three runs scored, lined a single to left field, and when the ball got past the left fielder, two runs scored.
Ward's infield single scored another run, and Lily Gammon dumped a two-run double down the right field line. Kaylee Brackett's liner off the center fielder's glove plated another run.
Lakeland answered with four runs in the bottom half, helped by four Sandpoint walks. Smit grounded a two-run single up the middle to cut the Bulldog lead to 9-7, and Delaney Gosch followed with an RBI single to center.
In the sixth, Harley See led off with an infield single, and Hailey Gosch walked. Smit grounded an RBI single to center to tie the game.
Freshman Payton Sterling lined a single to center to score Gosch with the go-ahead run. Another run scored on a throwing error, and Kyleigh Dyer dropped a two-run double down the right field line.
Cessna drove in a run with an infield single in the top of the seventh, and Shelby Lanie's infield single scored another run. Sandpoint had runners on second and third before a fly ball to right field ended the game.
"When we got the momentum, Lakeland always hits well, so we have to be ready on defense," Hawkins-Williams said. "We just gave them too many free passes and too many errors with runners on base to really close it out. You always have to keep adding on when you’re playing them."
Sandpoint pitchers struck out two and walked five. Lakeland pitchers fanned eight and walked five.
Both teams used three pitchers, with Via Barlow, who started for Sandpoint, returning in the sixth. Devry Bursch, Lakeland's third pitcher, weathered some early issues and pitched a pair of scoreless innings until her teammates could rally at the plate in the sixth.
"I think it gives teams an advantage, keeping batters off-balance is kinda the name of the game," Hawkins-Williams said. "Seeing them have their pitchers throw and us having to see us get our timing back every time we see a new pitcher makes it harder."
"Haylee Smit was sick (Friday), and I was going to possibly start her (at pitcher) because Sandpoint hasn’t seen her," Bevacqua said. "But I just said 'Hey, we just need your bat today.'"
Sandpoint 201 600 2 — 11 7 2
Lakeland 301 405 0 — 13 13 8
Via Barlow, Cresanna Authier (4), Madi Garman (4), Barlow (6) and Jaidyn Inman; Kathryn Wardak, Hailey Gosch (3), Devry Bursch (4) and Payton Sterling.
HITS: Spt — Cessna 2, Ward 2, Gammon, Barlow, Inman. LL — See 3, Smit 4, D. Gosch 2, Sterling 2, Staudinger, Dyer. 2B — Cennna, Dyer, Smit 2. HR — Ward.