GENESEE — It didn’t matter that Kendrick hadn’t been to the Idaho 1A state softball tournament in 10 years, or that the Tigers had never before won a state softball crown.
Embracing the underdog role and playing with a fearless attitude akin to its more experienced opponents, Kendrick dispatched league foe Potlatch 20-12 to claim its first state softball championship Saturday at Genesee High.
“The girls had a lot of confidence going in and knew we could do it,” Kendrick coach Morgan LeBlanc said. “We were the only ones that thought we could do it, but they believed and they got it done.”
Kendrick beat defending-champion Notus 9-4 in the semifinals before toppling a familiar opponent in the championship game. Potlatch used a seventh-inning rally to beat Genesee 10-9 in the other semifinal.
Potlatch had beat Kendrick by a single run in each of their previous three meetings this season, including in the District II championship game.
On Saturday, it was the Tigers’ turn.
“We knew Potlatch really well playing them four times this year,” LeBlanc said. “They’re well coached, they have great players and we knew they were going to make a run at us.
“We were hoping we could overcome it.”
Kendrick pitcher Megan Brocke tossed a pair of complete games and held the Loggers to four runs until their seven-run explosion in the seventh inning.
The Kendrick players rushed Brocke in the pitching circle after nabbing the final out — a fitting celebration for the junior, who roared onto the scene this year after coming back from knee surgery a year ago.
“I think this gives us a lot of confidence, especially in softball because we had no idea we would even be close to getting a state title,” Brocke said.
Kendrick started fast and didn’t look back, leading by as many as 15 runs in the game.
The Tigers flew out to a 6-0 lead in the first inning. Kendrick went through its entire order with seven runners getting on base in the first frame.
“I think we were still pretty pumped up from beating Notus, because they’re No. 1 in the south and we knew they were super good,” Brocke said of Kendrick’s fast start.
Brocke, who hit two home runs against Notus, added a pair of hits and a run in the championship.
Lauren Morgan led Kendrick with four runs, two RBI and a triple in the title game. The Tigers’ Mya Brown (four hits, two runs) and Mina Sandino (two runs, two hits, two RBI) also contributed at the plate.
Potlatch, known for putting up heaps of runs when it needs it, did most of its damage in the seventh when the game was all but out of reach.
The Loggers received runs from nine players and were paced by Brenna Larson with three hits and two runs.
Both teams had some clutch plays in the field. Potlatch right fielder Adrianna Arciga made a diving catch to end the top of the fifth with two Kendrick runners on base.
In the fourth, Kendrick third baseman Mya Brown made a solo double play when she snagged a lineout and tagged third base to get the tagging runner.
After the game, when the celebration was dying down, the Tigers gathered for photos with their championship trophy and banner. As players and coaches struggled to unfurl the banner, a player laughed and said, “We’ve never done this before.”
It wasn’t until after the game that Kendrick’s inexperience finally showed. On the diamond, they looked the entire part of a state champion.
“It’s been a long time since Kendrick’s won a state title in anything and these girls deserve it,” LeBlanc said. “They work hard and they’re talented, and we were ready to play ... the girls just played fantastic today.”
Kendrick 610 304 6—20 16 4
Potlatch 001 112 7—12 14 7
Mogan Brocke and Mina Sandino. Becca Butterfield, Brenna Larson (1), Shy Lynas (6), Desi Brown (7) and Lynas, Audrey Prather (1).
Kendrick hits — Mya Brown 4, Brocke 2, Sandino 2, Lauren Morgan 2 (3B) , Felicity Fitzjarrell 2 (2B), Hannah Tweit 2, Jaiden Anderson, Gracie Maland (2B).
Potlatch hits — Larson 3 (3B), Kendra Heitsuman 2, Jaidyn McKinney 2, Charlee Beckner 2, Adrianna Arciga 2, Sarah Gutscher, Prather, Mikayla Whitney (2B).
Wiebe can be contacted at email@example.com, by phone at (208) 883-4629 and on Twitter @stephansports.