North Idaho wins second consecutive NWAC Softball Championship
By MARK NELKE
Sports editor, Coeur D'Alene/Post Falls Press
BOX SCORE | BRACKET
PHOTOS: Championship Game | Post Game & Awards
Photos Courtesy of NWAC SID Tracy Swisher
SPOKANE — Fittingly, Madi Mott threw the final pitch and, just as fittingly, her best friend, Jori Kerr, caught it on the run in center field for the final out.
Mott, Kerr and the other sophomores led the way this season, the freshmen came of age when it mattered, and the North Idaho Cardinals are Northwest Athletic Conference softball champions again.
Mott scattered three hits and freshman shortstop Sarah Williams hit two home runs as North Idaho College defeated Edmonds 9-1 on Monday afternoon at the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex to win the NWAC conference tournament for the second straight year.
“Honestly, I had a feeling that (last ball) was coming to me,” Kerr said. “Madi and I, we have a really good connection, and I just feel like that whole game I was ready to have her back at all costs. I just knew that last pitch, she was going to throw it up for me to catch. It just felt so good having her back.
As for the difference between this year’s title and last year’s ...
“It’s the same work ethic, it’s the same grind, everyone puts in the same amount of time and effort,” Kerr said. “The victory might feel different, but the path to get there is always the same.”
Mott, the tourney MVP for the second straight year, went 3 for 4 and drove in two runs for the Cardinals (38-9-1). Kerr went 3 for 4 with an RBI and three runs scored, and leadoff batter Ashlyn Winn went 2 for 3 and scored twice as fourth-seeded NIC piled up 16 hits and scored in every inning against the third-seeded Tritons (41-10).
“It was definitely different, coming back with a whole new team, a whole new class of freshmen,” said Mott, who has signed with NCAA Division II Saint Leo University in Saint Leo, Fla. “It was definitely frustrating in the fall, but we had to be patient with the freshmen, because they had to learn what we all learned last year. Then we got to spring, and the freshmen started proving themselves, and the sophomores stepped up.”
In the title game, NIC started early against Edmonds, which had beaten Douglas (37-12) 10-9 in the third-place game earlier Monday.
Kerr, the No. 2 hitter, singled, stole second and scored on Mott’s single in the top of the first.
Williams smacked her first homer in the second to trigger a four-run inning. Kerr, Mott and Devinne Amesquita followed with back-to-back-to-back RBI singles for a 5-0 lead.
Williams led off the third with what was ruled a home run to right center field, a drive Edmonds thought should have been a ground-rule double as the center fielder knocked the fence over as the ball was landing. The Tritons thought the ball landed short of the fence, but the umpires ruled it cleared the fence.
“I wasn’t sure if it went out or not,” Williams said. “I was waiting for the umpire to tell me to stop (at second), but he never did, so I kept going. She took the fence.”
Emma Profili’s RBI single made it 7-0 in the fourth.
Edmonds, third last year, got a run back on Kamalei Labasan’s bunt single past the pitcher, which scored Prestyne Kaimi-Montira from third. But Mott, who finished with seven strikeouts, fanned the next two hitters to get out of the jam.
Winn launched a home run over the left field fence to lead off the fifth. Kerr followed with a single, and scored on Bailey Cavanagh’s double to left center to make it 9-1.
Last year, NIC won its final 23 games and finished 50-3. This year, the Cardinals got off to a slower start, but the finish was just as impressive.
“Last year was pretty special, because it was the first,” said NIC coach Don Don Williams, who started the Cardinals’ program in 1998. “This year was different. We started slow, and had adversity, we had a whole new infield, and it took a lot of time to get us firing on all cylinders. It took a lot of trust, getting my players to trust the process. It was a slower climb this year than last year, but so proud of the girls on what they did and how they accomplished it.”
“People were underestimating us. We came in as the fourth seed, and we showed ’em up,” said Cavanagh, a sophomore from Lake City High who went 3 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored.
NIC beat Edmonds 6-3 in the semifinal game Sunday night. Mott gave up three solo homers, two to Rhilmina Sagapolutele, one of 10 Hawaiians on the Edmonds roster. On Monday, Mott struck her out in the second inning and walked her on a full count in the fourth.
“Madi kind of separates them from the rest of us,” Edmonds interim coach Chuck Stark said. “Madi is pretty dominant, and offensively, they’re pretty deep, 1 through 9, a lot of power. They deserved to win the title — they’re just a notch ahead of everybody else right now in the NWAC.”
MVP -Madi Mott, North Idaho
Jori Kerr, North Idaho
Bailey Cavenaugh, North Idaho
Sarah Williams, North Idaho
Devinne Amesquita, North Idaho
Kayla Hensley, Edmonds
Rhilmina Sagapolutele, Edmonds
Shanelle Lum, Edmonds
Cecilia Robbins, Edmonds
Jessica Podskalny, Douglas
Janessa Hanson, Douglas
Kasey Wright, Douglas
Abby Giles, Walla Walla
Ashton Buffo, Walla Walla