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Pocatello softball beats Idaho Falls in 4A conference title game

Idaho Falls’ Kennedy Burton pitches in the third inning during the 4A District 5-6 softball title game between Idaho Falls High School and Pocatello High School at Tautphaus Park on Thursday. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

By JASON ENES | prsports@postregister.com

After a 14-0 victory over Blackfoot in a 4A District 5-6 elimination game, the Idaho Falls High School softball team celebrated clinching the team’s first state tournament bid since the 2015 season.

But the No. 1 seeded Tigers still had a game to play, their third of the day and second against No. 2 seeded Pocatello.

The Indians handed the Tigers a 5-1 loss in the semifinals earlier Thursday afternoon at Tautphaus Park, and they took the second meeting as well. Pocatello pitcher Hanna Evans silenced the Idaho Falls bats and added a three-run home run of her own in a 12-1, five-inning victory, giving the Indians their fourth consecutive softball district title.

Idaho Falls’ Jaidyn Clement pitches in the first inning during the 4A District 5-6 softball title game between Idaho Falls High School and Pocatello High School at Tautphaus Park on Thursday. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

“It feels really good to be district champs again,” Indians coach Josh Naylor said. “We came out and played a solid game, got some great pitching. Hanna pitched once against Idaho Falls this year and had a migraine. We hoped she would have her A-game, and she did.”

Evans allowed four hits and struck out five in her complete game victory and went 2-for-3 at the plate with a monster 3-run home run to center field to give the Indians a lead they would never relinquish.

“Hats off to Pocatello. They are really great team and they played well today,” Tigers coach Traci Wilkinson said. “They have been our toughest competition this season, but today we just did not play our best games against them.”

The Tigers’ lone run came in the top of the first on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Madalyn Burton. The Tigers recorded just three more hits in the game, two of those came in the final inning.

“We always get a little edgy when we play Pocatello,” Wilkinson said. “We didn’t hit the ball in the last game, and that was the difference.”

Despite the loss, the Tigers still qualified for next week’s 4A state softball tournament in Blackfoot as the number No. 2 seed from District 5-6. It will be their first appearance at state softball as a 4A school.

“It had been a few years since we have been to state, so it’s good to be back,” Wilkinson said. “We have a lot of tweaking to do before we play on Friday and unfortunately for us, we will have to play the top team in the state.”

Pocatello’s Lexi Garza slides safely into second base passed Idaho Falls’ Emma Williams during the 4A District 5-6 softball title game between Idaho Falls High School and Pocatello High School at Tautphaus Park on Thursday. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

After its five-run first, the Indians used six hits to score six runs in the fourth, an inning that brought 13 hitters to the plate. All nine Indians recorded a hit in the game.

“We have the hitters that can hit the ball all over the yard,” Naylor said. “Today we did, but don’t let the score of this game fool you. Idaho Falls is a very, very good team.”

Alex Billings led the Tigers at the plate, going 2-for-2 with a pair of singles.

Idaho Falls (22-6) will begin the 4A state tournament against the District 3 champion at 11 a.m. on May 18 at Blackfoot High School.

POCATELLO 12, IDAHO FALLS 1 (5 innings)
Idaho Falls 100 00 — 1 4 2
Pocatello 501 6x — 12 14 1
IDAHO FALLS — Pitchers: Jaidyn Clement 0.2 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, Kennedy Burton 2.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R , 1 ER, 2 K, 3 BB, Alex Billings 0.2 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 5 ER, BB. Leading hitters: Alex Billings 2-2, Jaidyn Clement 2-2, R.
POCATELLO — Pitchers: Hanna Evans 5 IP, 4 H, R, ER, 5 K. Leading hitters: Hanna Evans 2-3, HR, 3 RBs, Kylie Dubbe 3-4, Madelyn Leslie 1-2, 2 RBIs.

Other scores from the 4A tournament:

Pocatello 5, Idaho Falls 1; Idaho Falls 14, Blackfoot 0

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