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Seven area softball teams are in search of hardware at State

May 15—The Whitepine League has dominated at the Idaho Class 1A state softball tournament for more than a decade and has produced 10 champions in that span.

The WPL can possibly add another title as three of the top four seeds at this year's event, which starts today at the Genesee Rec Fields, are from the small-school conference in north central Idaho.

Orofino (18-8) and Grangeville (16-7) will compete at the 2A state tournament starting Thursday at the Community Fields in Orofino, and Moscow will be at the 4A tourney at Lake City and Coeur d'Alene high schools the same day.

Here's how each team made the Big Dance:

The fantastic four of the WPL

Genesee (17-2) was the last 1A team to win back-to-back state titles (2015, '16) and it could do it again.

The defending champs are the No. 1 seed in the tournament, despite falling 15-9 to Kendrick in the district championship game last week. The Bulldogs started the season on a 15-game winning streak, a stretch where they outscored their opponents 273-51.

Genesee's luck eventually ran out in a tight 15-14 loss to Grangeville on May 2.

"We started hitting the ball really well," Genesee coach Brian Malcom said. "I've got five seniors, and they stepped up even against Grangeville; we had a chance to win that one. ... It was a turnaround for us. It was kind of like last year; we started hitting really well late in the season."

The Bulldogs have a stout offense, bringing in a league-high 15.83 runs per game. Sophomore Sydney Banks leads the team with 26 hits and a .441 batting average.

Junior pitcher Kendra Meyer has one of the best arms in the WPL. She is 8-2 in state tournament games and tallied an event-record four wins in 2022.

Genesee opens tournament play against eighth-seeded Greenleaf Friends Academy (10-8) at 5:15 p.m.

The only league loss the Bulldogs suffered came in the district title tilt against the Tigers.

Third-seeded Kendrick (13-6) starts its state run against sixth-seeded Garden Valley (7-5) at 5:15 p.m.

The district champs have powerful bats and have notched 211 hits and 199 RBI this season. Kendrick is paced by junior Hayden Kimberling and her team-leading 36 hits and six home runs.

The junior also leads the Tigers in innings pitched (45.2) and has 30 strikeouts.

"She's just had a heck of a year for us," Kendrick coach Morgan LeBlanc said. "She's kind of come into her own (this year). We knew she had a good bat — in the circle, she throws a lot of strikes for us. She's a great kid."

The Tigers' most recent league loss was a 7-5 decision to Clearwater Valley of Kooskia in Game 1 of a doubleheader on May 2.

The fifth-seeded Rams (9-7) begin their quest for a state title against fourth-seeded Potlatch (10-9) at 3:00 p.m.

Oh, and the Rams' last league defeat was a 27-7 loss to Potlatch in a district tournament third-place game — showing just how competitive the WPL has been all year.

"We're right there in the hunt," Clearwater Valley coach Vincent Martinez said. "We got a really good pitcher, and I would say our batting is coming around, and we shored up some errors, and now we're ready to be competitive."

Clearwater Valley is led by reigning 1A player of the year, senior pitcher Jessica Ketola. The standout has struck out 164 batters in 78 innings, making a strong case for her to repeat as the classification's MVP.

The Rams are an overall young team outside of Ketola, but that hasn't stopped the underclassmen from making plays.

For example, freshman outfielder Sydney Hester sealed a doubleheader sweep against the Loggers with a "game-saving catch" on April 20.

Potlatch is also young, with Jaylee Fry being the only senior on the roster.

Fry leads the Loggers in nearly every offensive category, such as batting average (.596), on-base percentage (.708), stolen bases (46) and runs.

"She's really important," Potlatch coach Dean Butterfield said. "She's the leadoff hitter, and she covers a lot of ground. She's a really good player."

Moscow making it happen

Moscow enters the end-of-year tourney on an eight-game winning streak.

The eighth-seeded Bears (16-10) begin action against top-seeded Bishop Kelly of Boise (20-3) at 5:15 p.m. on Thursday at Coeur d'Alene High School.

Before Moscow enjoyed the highs of late April and early May, it endured a tumultuous five-game skid in the middle of the season.

"It was kind of a season of ups and downs," Moscow coach Eric Kiblen said. "We struggled a bit early. But they were able to find their groove, and they are playing their best ball of the season. We're excited to go to State."

Junior Hannah Robertson has been a dominant presence at the dish for the Bears, notching a team-high 43 hits and nine home runs.

Moscow's leadoff hitter, Kaci Kiblen, leads the team in batting average (.512) and stolen bases (21).

Senior Kelly Stodick has accumulated 63 strikeouts in 69 innings pitched for the Bears.

Central Idaho League represent

Grangeville has had a historic campaign so far, breaking the school record for hits (284) and RBI (239) in a season.

Seventh-seeded Grangeville (17-7) continues its memorable run with an opening-round matchup against second-seeded Cole Valley Chrisitan of Meridian (20-5) at 3 p.m. on Thursday in Orofino.

Bulldogs' pitcher Mattie Thacker also broke some school records, including most strikeouts in a season (138), strikeouts in a game (14) and innings pitched (132).

"She's a good team leader," Grangeville coach Jerime Zimmerman said. "She never gets too high or too low. She's somebody you can rely on. ... I would say her overall team presence keeps our team centered."

Grangeville earned its berth with an 11-9 victory over Orofino in a 2A district championship game.

The sixth-seeded Maniacs (18-8) also earned a bid to State and will face third-seeded North Fremont (15-3) at their home field to start things off.

"The kids get to sleep in their own beds, eat food at their parents' house and drive 10 minutes to the field," Orofino coach Sean Diffin said. "Home field advantage is a real thing. They've played here their whole softball careers. There's no better place to play than at home."

Senior Jaelyn Miller paces Orofino at the plate with a team-high 37 hits and 41 runs.

Sophomore Reece Deyo has been a force in the circle for the Maniacs, recording a team-high 50 strikeouts in 47.1 innings pitched.

Pixley may be contacted at (208) 848-2290, tpixley@lmtribune.com or on Twitter @TreebTalks