If you needed further proof of the parity in the 4A Region 1 softball ranks, look no further than Sandpoint’s slate of games between Moscow and Lakeland.
Sure, top-seeded Lakeland beat Sandpoint 19-9 in a five-run game to send the Bulldogs back to the consolation bracket. But consider how Sandpoint got there: A 20-hit, 18-run bombardment — highlighted by senior first-baseman Natalie Petit’s pair of two-run homers.
“[Natalie] wasn’t pressing,” Sandpoint head coach Elizabeth Hawkins-Williams said about the senior first baseman’s five-hit, eight-RBI, two-home run day. “She’s been really pressing in her at-bats because she hit so well last year, so she’s really been working on not over-swinging in her at-bats this season.”
The Priest River transfer made all of her hits seem effortless, which set the tone for the Bulldog offense. And both homers came at opportune times. The first, a no-doubter that cleared the left-center fence, helped Sandpoint reclaim the lead in the fourth. The second, a line drive to center field, nearly put the nail in the coffin during the sixth.
Picking a non-Petit standout on offense would be a difficult task: Consider Brooklen Steiger’s four-hit day, including a lead-off single in the fourth that sparked a seven-run Sandpoint inning.
Or, perhaps, senior pitcher/third baseman Tanis Davis’ six-hit day across two games; the senior’s “single” — which would’ve been an extra base hit in any other scenario — walked off the first game against Moscow before she kicked off a four-hit, three-RBI outing against Lakeland.
Or how about slap-hitter Izzo Edwards’ four-hit performance in the lead-off spot of the Moscow game (she finished with five hits on the day).
“It was great to see everything come together today,” Hawkins-Williams said of Petit, yet the phrase could’ve been used for the entire team’s performance in the batters’ box.
For a moment, it looked like things would come together during the Lakeland game as well. In a moment of pitcher-on-pitcher crime, Davis hit a home run off Lakeland ace Taylor Woolley to put Sandpoint on the board first.
Yet momentum flipped rather quickly in the bottom of the first.
Lakeland batted through the order and jumped out to a 5-1 lead. The Hawks favored the left-center gap and grounders up the middle all afternoon: When the literal and figurative dust settled, the Hawks notched 24 hits — eight of which were for extra bases.
“Lakeland hit as well as I’ve ever seen them hit,” Hawkins-Williams — who has been around the 4A IEL ranks both as a player and as a coach _ said. “They were hitting balls all over the place. So what we took away from that was they’re going to hit aggressively. We need to put our best defense on the field and the defense needs to know they’re going to have to go after every ball when Lakeland’s hitting like that.”
If there was a bright spot to the 24-hit barrage, Woolley was held hitless on the day whenever the Bulldogs didn’t intentionally walk the two-way star. But the senior more than made up for it with her work at the dish by striking out five and walking three in a shortened outing.
The Bulldogs tried staging a pair of rallies during the third and fourth innings. Petit, who hadn’t cooled off from the game against Moscow, started the scoring with a two-RBI double up the middle. Then the Bulldogs created their own luck, thanks to Steiger’s fourth hit of the afternoon.
“[Brooklen] has been hitting well all season, but it really showed today,” Hawkins-Williams said. “Whenever she puts the ball in play, she makes things happen. She’s cleared the bases more often [than last season] because her speed catches the defense off guard.”
In her third-inning at-bat, Steiger did exactly that. Her chopper towards third base died as it hit the ground, catching Lakeland’s defense off guard, giving her enough time to reach first. When the throw to first went long, Steiger turned it into a bases-clearing double that sent Petit home.
In the fourth, however, Davis, Petit and Irish helped chip away at Lakeland’s lead in consecutive at-bats. Davis and Petit both hit their second doubles of the game, then Irish’s single to right sent Petit home.
Painfully for the Bulldogs, however, was the fact that Lakeland did most of its damage on the day with two outs.
Sandpoint (4-15, 3-5 IEL) hosts Moscow in the loser-out game of the tournament on Thursday at 4 p.m. The winner of that game plays Lakeland on Saturday at noon.
Fielding stats unavailible at press time
Moscow 022 013 — 8 11
Sandpoint 300 744 — 18 20
Game called in the 6th due to run-rule.
W — Irish, 3. L —Dreesmann, 3
HITS: Moscow — Battery unavailible. Sandpoint — Cessna 2, Steiger 2, Edwards 4, Ward, Petit, Authier, Davis 2, Adam. 2B — Authier, Loutzenhiser. 3B — Steiger, Ward. HR — Petit 2 (two-run HRs).
Sandpoint 103 41 — 9 12
Lakeland 526 33 — 19 24
Game called in the 5th due to run-rule
W — Woolley, 5. L — Davis, 2.
HITS: Sandpoint — Irish 2, Cessna 2, Edwards. 2B — Davis 3, Petit 2, Steiger. HR — Davis (solo). Lakeland — See 4, Gallus 3, Russum 2, Smit 2, Dyer 2, O’Hara. 2B — Gallus 2, Pruitt, Russum, Smith, Wardack, Pluid. 3B — Russum. HR — See (solo).