'Winther' storm in the spring

May 16—GENESEE — Both pitchers notched a complete game in the opening round of the Idaho Class 1A state softball tournament between the fourth-seeded Potlatch Loggers and the fifth-seeded Clearwater Valley Rams of Kooskia on Wednesday at the Genesee Rec Fields.

It was a defensive affair that saw the Loggers and junior hurler Brieanna Winther come out on top 3-1 over the Rams and the reigning 1A player of the year, senior Jessica Ketola.

"Our defense was good," Potlatch coach Dean Butterfield said. "They were a little nervous, and we had a lot of freshmen playing. But they came out, and they played well."

Potlatch (11-9) will next play top-seeded Genesee (18-2) in a semifinal matchup at 11:15 a.m. today at the same site, and Clearwater Valley (9-8) will face eighth-seeded Greenleaf Friends Academy (9-9) at 9 a.m., also at the same site, in a loser-out game.

Winther allowed one earned run on four hits and struck out six batters in seven innings.

"Things started a bit rough, and then she came through," Butterfield said. "She threw strikes when we needed them, and the offspeed stuff got us some pop-ups and easy ground balls. She did a good job."

Clearwater Valley's stalwart in the circle wasn't too shabby, either. Ketola allowed one earned run on five hits and struck out 15.

"She's a gamer; they're all gamers," Clearwater Valley coach Vincent Martinez said. "She pulled her weight and did a great job for us. ... Overall, I think we did alright; our pitcher did her job. We just had a couple of errant throws and some base-on-balls. Potlatch is a good team. But we just couldn't come back, and our bats need to be better."

The last time Ketola and Winther dueled, the Rams notched a doubleheader sweep over the Loggers, and Ketola had a combined 22 strikeouts.

"We need to play smarter ball," Martinez said. "They need to tighten up, be more disciplined, and stick to our style of play, which is taking selections at good pitches, not just any pitches."

Speedy Loggers

The Loggers registered just five hits off of Ketola. But once they hit the basepaths, they were effective, finishing with 10 stolen bases.

Junior Hayley McNeal crossed home plate first for the Loggers after an RBI bunt from Brooklyn Mitchell. McNeal stole second and third during a Kylie Heitstuman at-bat. She scored the following at-bat to put Potlatch in front 1-0 in the bottom of the first.

"They run the bases well," Butterfield said. "We just put a lot of trust in them. I told them to be aggressive on the bases and have fun with it."

Small-ball approach

It takes work to make contact with the overpowering speed that Ketola possesses. So, most teams choose a bunt approach when facing the dominant hurler.

The Loggers were successful when they got their bats down and used their speed to get on base after making contact and keeping the ball fair.

An Olivia Smith bunt in the bottom of the third got her to first safely and moved Heitstuman to third. Heitstuman scored after a wild pitch for the game's final margin.

"They know they have to bunt, and they have speedy kids," Martinez said. "They're aggressive; they know how to run the bases. They're not afraid to steal, and they got us in positions where our fielders had to make some real situational decisions. Sometimes we win them, and today, we didn't win very many."

Not much offensive output

It was a slow night offensively for the Rams.

Clearwater Valley struggled to find gaps in Potlatch's defense and appeared to have some communication issues on the bases.

Ketola gave Clearwater Valley some momentum during the top of the sixth with a hit that found a hole between right and center field.

The ball sailed over the head of Potlatch right fielder Liza Quaade, and Ketola dashed to second base. Quaade's throw was timely. But it was mishandled by Loggers second baseman Reese Lusby.

The next at-bat, Alex Palmer popped out to Elena Vowles. Ketola didn't tag up when trying to move to third, and Vowels gracefully tossed the ball to Lusby for the double play.

"Poor base running," Martinez said. "I'm yelling 'back, back, back.' They had no outs; it was a short pop fly into the infield. I'm not sure why she gave as much as she did — expecting them to drop it is what it looked like."

Clearwater Valley 010 000 0—1 4 3

Potlatch 201 000 x—3 5 1

Jessica Ketola and Evalie Schuster; Brieanna Winther and Olivia Smith.

Clearwater Valley hits — Ketola (2B), Autum Martinez, Seasha Reuben, Rylie Parsons.

Potlatch hits — Smith 2, Kylie Heitstuman 2, Brooklyn Mitchell.

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