On a cold, rainy afternoon in Nampa, the Bishop Kelly softball team still managed to shine, routing Ridgevue 23-7 to take home the 4A state softball championship title for the second year in a row.
The Knights set a 4A state tournament record for the most runs scored in a game. They also set an all-class fastpitch record by averaging 17.25 runs per game this year in the state tournament.
After dismal morning and afternoon showers delayed the start of the championship game by nearly three hours, the Knights (22-3), who came in to the game as the District Three champions, got off to a quick start and never looked back, taking the title for the ninth time in program history.
“This is a team that really has put the time in to get what they got,” head coach Missy Nichols said. She said her team, which won the title in 2019, has been practicing hard since the COVID-19 pandemic canceled last year’s season.
“Back to back with a year off in the middle,” she added.
Though the Knights have lost numerous starters since their title win in 2019, the team benefited from a strong core of junior players: catcher Kayla Stoker, who transferred from Eagle this year, pitcher Pilar Cook, who transferred from Boise, and shortstop Kaysie Jolley. The Knights put up 10 runs in the first inning Saturday, including a double by Cook that brought her all the way home after two passed balls.
The Warhawks, tired after a grueling 8-6 semifinal against Vallivue that ended minutes before the final contest, began to crawl back in the game’s early innings, scoring two in the second, two in the third and three in the fourth.
But the Knights offense roared again in the bottom of the fourth, blowing open the game and giving them a 16-7 lead.
Ridgevue was plagued with injuries on Saturday. It first baseman suffered a nose injury during the day’s first game, and pitcher Sierra Escalera got drilled in the leg by a line drive in the semifinals, which took her off the mound and into right field. During the first inning of the final, third baseman Maddie McKay was injured after being hit on the hand by a hard line drive. She was replaced by freshman Mikayla Garcia.
After a home run by junior Taylor Woods put the Knights up 17-7 in the bottom of the fifth, both teams thought the game was over: a mercy rule during the regular season ends games in the fifth inning if one team has at least a 10-run lead. But the umpire sent both teams back into their dugouts on Saturday afternoon, since the mercy rule doesn’t apply in the championship game.
With both teams playing in Saturday’s championship game alighting from the Southern Idaho Conference, 2021 marked another year of dominance for Boise-area teams. The SIC has won the 4A state softball title six years in a row and 18 times in the 20 years since the classification was created in 2001.
“When (the season) stopped last year, we just practiced,” Jolley told the Statesman. She went 4-for-4 with a 2-run homer, two doubles, a single, two walks and four runs batted in. “We never stopped.”