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2022 Idaho Softball Preview
Which teams will repeat as state champs? And who will emerge as new contenders?
Published: 3/24/2022 7:53:55 AM
Brandon Baney
Managing Editor/Broadcaster


The 2022 softball season began in earnest at the beginning of March.  But due to weather, not everyone was able to start at the same time.

That's why this weekend for many marks the "unofficial" start to the year.  Nearly 40 teams are in the Treasure Valley this weekend to compete at the annual Win the Pitch Spring Break Tournament.

With every team finally able to get competition started, here's a look at the softball landscape.  In this preview, we'll outline a couple of teams and players to keep an eye on this year at each classification level.

Class 5A

The Skyview Hawks emerged from a crowded Southern Idaho Conference last year to claim the 5A state championship, despite finishing fourth in the regular season league standings.  In fact, Skyview needed to defeat Lake City in a state tournament play-in game just to qualify for the field of eight.

Once the Hawks arrived, though, they caught fire at the right time, dispatching Rocky Mountain, Eagle, Mountain View, and Rocky Mountain a second time to earn their second state crown in school history.  While Skyview did lose some players to graduation, including Marissa Medina (who collected six RBIs in the state championship game), there's no denying the Hawks are loaded with talent in 2022.

For starters, shortstop Delaney Keith is back for her senior season after winning the Gatorade Player of the Year award in 2021.  She'll be joined by fellow All-Conference selections Summer Makinster (catcher/first base), Taylor Brewer (pitcher/outfielder), and Asha Zamora (pitcher/third base).  Lily Justesen is another solid senior pitcher/utility player, and freshmen Sophia Caringella will be counted on right away at second base.

So how does Skyview repeat as 5A champs?  "(We need to) learn to do the extra work and play with this year's team," said head coach Tim Souza.  He added, "We're excited to have the opportunity to compete once again in the 5A division."

That competition will be fierce, both within the SIC and statewide.  In addition to Skyview's championship, Rocky Mountain finished second and Mountain View took third at state a year ago.  Additionally, Eagle and Timberline both qualified for state a year ago.  Those four will push Skyview for the conference title, as will Owyhee, Capital and Borah.

In fact, Rocky Mountain won the regular season and district tournament titles a year ago. But the Grizzlies were hit hard by graduation, and said goodbye to standouts like Riley Gilbreath, Megan Dobrev, Lolo Walker, Gracie Smith, Emily Henard, Abbey Brooks, and Izabella Brinkham.  A new crop of untested players will have to acclimate themselves to the varsity game quickly.

Mountain View was hit similarly hard by graduation, which leaves an opening for teams like Timberline and Eagle.  The Wolves welcome back the best pitcher in the league, senior Amber Thornton.  Thornton shared SIC Co-Player of the Year honors with Skyview's Keith in 2021.  Eagle also, meanwhile, will build around infielder Sydney Groves and pitcher Lizzy Tommasini.

When asked to identify a dark horse in the SIC, Souza didn't hesitate.  "Capital has great young pitching and a good, young offense and defense," he said.  Pitcher Penny-Lew Barnett earned first team All-Conference honors as a sophomore a year ago, and is flanked by seniors Grace Wontorcik (infield), Carly Turpen (infield/outfield) and Allie Laufenburger (pitcher/infield).

Kuna's Kamryn Hamm and Owyhee freshman Samantha Hatzenbeller are other players Souza said could impress in the SIC this year.

The best non-SIC finish at state last year came from Post Falls.  The Trojans took fourth and are welcoming in a new head coach in Katy Sinn.    While Sinn may be new, the players are not.  "We have six returning seniors who have been up on varsity since their freshman year, which makes for a solid infield and team dynamic," Sinn said.  "We also have some of our top hitters returning this year to help with our offense as well."

Pitcher McKenna Moak and catcher Alyssa Krause both earned All-League honors.  They are joined by shortstop Kailey Cramer, third baseman Sophie Solberg and pitcher Sophie Nungesser as the core of the Trojans' seniors this year.  If Post Falls can break in a new starting outfield, the Trojans potential is sky high.

But a number of dangerous teams lurk up north.  Lake City lost to eventual 5A champ Skyview in the state tournament play-in game last year, and Lewiston was the regular season league champ in 2021.  As for Coeur d'Alene, Sinn said: "We believe they will surprise some people this year as they return most of their team from last year, and they brought a lot of competition a year ago."

Coeur d'Alene will be led by Skylar Burke and Kristine Schmidt.  Lake City will build around Hope Bodak.  Lewiston boasts the Barney sisters: Taryn (senior) and Loryn (junior), along with senior pitcher Kaitlyn Banks.

In District 5-6, Highland and Thunder Ridge both advanced to state a year ago.  The Titans scored an opening round win over Timberline before losing out in consecutive games, while Highland went two-and-out.  Thunder Ridge enters 2022 as the favorite in the east.

Class 4A

Bishop Kelly reigned supreme in 2021, winning the championship by dispatching Minico, Valliuve, and Ridgevue twice.  Most of the BK core returns, much to the dismay of other 4A clubs.  One of the few losses suffered by Bishop Kelly was the graduation of pitcher Mariela Contreras.  "Her leadership, poise and kindness will be missed," said Knights coach Missy Nichols.  

Returning for Bishop Kelly this year are a slew of All-SIC selections: Pilar Cook (pitcher), Kaysie Jolley (infield), Kayla Stoker (catcher), Ysabella Villegas (outfield), Taylor Woods (infield), Harper Campanella (infield), Faith Nichols (pitcher) and Claire Cunningham (designated hitter).

it's hard to pinpoint which Knight will be most important to the Bishop Kelly attack this year.  Stoker has committed to Division II Montana State University-Billings.  Jolley led the team with a batting average that hovered around .700 a year ago.  Pilar didn't lose a single game in the pitcher's circle, and also batted .459 with 11 home runs.  And Campanella led the team with 17 home runs, and the junior could rise even higher this year.

Outside of the gaudy statistics, coach Nichols says several of these players are strong in the intangible skills that can't be measured.  "Kayla Stoker makes pitchers better than they are," Nichols said of her senior catcher.  "She convincingly manipulates what the umpires see coming across the plate, adding strikes to a batter's count that could have been considered balls." 

"Bella Villegas runs the outfield, tracking what she can with her feet, and what she can't with her mouth," Nichols added of her senior center fielder.  "Consistently aware of her positioning and footwork, she displays the grit and dedication to getting outs that we need from our defenders."

Ridgevue earned runner-up status a year ago, but the Warhawks were hit hard by graduation.  The Emmett Huskies are a team within the conference on coach Nichols' radar.  "Coach Marquez has been slowly acquiring more and more players who get some good club tournaments in throughought the offseason," Nichols said.  "Every year, the gap in score between our first and second contests with them diminishes, which  means they grow all season long."

Emmett will be led by pitcher Shelbie Heath.  In fact, almost every team in the conference has an ace pitcher capable of carrying their team to a win on an given night.  Other top pitchers include Joely Crider of Middleton and Brittney Henderson of Vallivue.  At the receiving end, one player coach Nichols is keeping an eye on is Columbia's Hallie Campbell.  "She is a young catcher, but a tremendous leader," Nichols said.  "I love watching her play because she's feisty behind the plate and explosive from the batter's box."

The only non-SIC team to qualify for the semifinals last year was Blackfoot, the champion from District 6.  However, Century, from District 5, ended up lasting longer than the Broncos, finishing fourth overall at state.  Vic Agado, Taliiyah Martinez, Sami Staley and Marli Pearson all return for Blackfoot after earning All-Conference honors a year ago.  Junior Elin Williams is the top returner for Century.

Twin Falls was the champion of District 4 a year ago.  Veteran coach Tonia Burk welcomes back senior center fielder Reagan Rex and senior infielder Aubrey Fuchs.  They'll pair with a pair of exciting sophomores in pitcher Sydney McMurdie and catcher Sydney Jund.  Jund batted .488 with 36 RBIs a year ago. 

On the other side of the coin, though, the Bruins will have to replace four-year starters Hannah Holcomb and Brinley Iverson.  Holcomb's abilities as a pitcher, in particular, will be missed.  "I am most excited for the youth on this team, and the unknown that brings," Burk said.  "On paper we are young and fairly inexperienced as a varsity team.  However, the work ethic and determination are there.  Add in their energy and I like our odds."

If Twin Falls takes a little longer to adjust to the varsity game, both Mountain Home and Jerome could supplant the Bruins at the top of the Great Basin Conference standings.  Reece Floyd and Reagan McDaniel will lead Mountain Home, while Jerome will rely on Megan Arellano.  Coach Burk also said to watch out for Burley, noting that "they are very well coached and they had a good JV team last year."

Up north, Lakeland represented District 1-2 at state last year.  The three-team league is always unpredictable, and any of the three teams (Lakeland, Sandpoint and Moscow) could end up winning the Inland Empire League.

Class 3A

The Filer Wildcats rallied their way to the 3A title in 2021.  After losing to Homedale 11-3 in the undefeated semifinal, Filer knocked out Marsh Valley and earned a rematch with Homedale.  Filer then defeated the Trojans twice in a row, by scores of 10-8 and 5-4 to win their fourth softball title in school history.

Graduation losses were minimal, but impactful at Filer.  Four-year varsity pitcher Samantha Taylor led the entire 3A classification in strikeouts last year, and also led Filer in all but three offensive categories.  Taylor has taken her talents to Treasure Valley Community College.  The three offensive categories that Taylor didn't lead?  Those belonged to fellow four-year varsity pitcher McCarty Stoddard.  When Taylor was pitching, Stoddard moved to shortstop and has now committed to the College of Idaho.

But the cupboard isn't completely bare for coach Buck Taylor.  "We started two seniors, one junior, five sophomores and one freshman last year, so the bulk of our team returns to defend the title," Taylor said.  "We had a bumper crop of freshmen with significant experience and three new athletes moved into the area."

Those three athletes, senior catcher Sydney Snyder, sophomore pitcher Elli Castillo and freshman shortstop Heidi Winegar, all qualified for the varsity squad.  "Programs often start to relax and rest on past successes, they sort of mail it in," Taylor said.  "Hopefully these three new ladies spark an interest in the group as a whole.  If the returners put in the work and give effort, we can be back where we were last year."

Despite Filer's postseason success, Gooding actually won the regular season title in the Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference last year.  "They have a new coach this year," said Taylor.  "If she can get the girls to buy in, I feel Gooding is probably the team to beat."  The Senators will be led by Alx Roe, the early favorite for conference MVP, along with sophomore pitcher Mae Durham.  Durham finished second behind Samantha Taylor in strikeouts in the SCIC last year as a freshman.

Kasey Thuerer and Trinity Tvrdy of Buhl, and Kimberly's Mallory Kelly and Demi Vega will also impress this year in the SCIC.
After falling just short of the title, Homedale returns as the favorite in District 3.  Dani Sitts was the Snake River Valley Conference Player of the Year, and she'll be joined by returning All-SRV players Zayne Hall, Amaia Aberasturi and Olivia Miller.

Weiser and also shows potential in District 3.  The Wolverines will be lead by Tobie Noyer, Whitney Cordes, Mecarte Olsen, Hannah Swank, Macy Maloney and Ivy Morris.  All were named to the All-SRV team.  

Marsh Valley won the South East Idaho Conference in 2021, and finished third overall at state.  Junior Libbie Larsen turned several solid performances in the pitcher's circle a year ago, and is joined by fellow juniors Ellee Anderson (shortstop), Camri Campbell (third base), and Taya Whitworth (outfield).  Sophomores Shelby Scharfen and Berkley Vincent also saw regular time last year at pitcher and catcher, respectively.

South Fremont was the other team from east Idaho at the 3A state tournament a year ago.  The Cougars were the champions from District 6, and will be led by junior pitcher Haylie Angell.  Both Sugar-Salem and Teton are capable of overtaking South Fremont, though, in the always competitive Mountain Rivers Conference.

Up north, both Timberlake and Bonners Ferry represented the Intermountain League at state.   The Tigers finished fourth, while the Badgers went two-and-out.  Timberlake was hit hard by graduation.  Four-year starting pitcher and middle infielder Bernie Carhart is gone, as are shortstop Brooke Jessen, third baseman Peyton Lindley, and outfielders Emma Howard and Lacey Peterson.

"This year's team is very young," said Timberlake coach Casi Lupinacci.  "But I'm excited to see how this team comes together.  We have a lot of potential and a lot of players who are very skilled, but it's going to be interesting to see who steps up in a leadership position.  The most exciting thing is that with such young talent, we should be able to continue our winning traditions for the foreseeable future."

Senior catcher and middle infielder Lily Carhart is a returning All-IML selection, and could step into that leadership role.  Otherwise, any number of promising underclassmen (sophomores Logan Walsh and Acacia Pecor, and freshman Taylor Bentley) could lead the way, as well.

Bonners Ferry is lurking, though.  Last year, the Badgers brought in former player Kassy Skeen to coach the squad.  Skeen won a state title as a player at Bonners Ferry in 2017 and is bringing that winning mentality back to the Badgers.

Class 2A

East Idaho dominated the 2A State Tournament in 2021.  Malad defeated West Jefferson in an all-east championship, and Bear Lake added a third place trophy for good measure.  Standout pitcher and hitter Riley Dorious graduated, but a number of solid players return for the Dragons as well, like Hallie Horsley, Madi Green and Kaitlyn Pickett.

Bear Lake, Malad's conference rival in District 5, lost a similar all-world talent in the pitcher's circle and at the plate in Hailey Humphereys.  "She was an amazing player, and an all-around athlete," Bear Lake head coach Jared Hillier said.  "We also lost third baseman Shanyce Peterson.  She set the school record in stolen bases last year." 

All told, the Bears saw seven seniors graduate in the offseason.  "We have a lot of holes to fill," Hillier said.  "We also have several promising underclassmen that we are excited to watch.  We'll see which ones step up and fill the holes left by the graduated seniors."

Until the underclassmen develop, Bear Lake will rely on four seniors: infielders Gracey Rigby, Abbie Johnson and Alexis Coombs, and outfielder Hannah DeClark.

As for West Jefferson, the 2A state runner-up a year ago, the sky is the limit.  Junior pitcher Jordyn Torgerson was one of the best hurlers not just in District 6, but in the entire state for 2A softball a year ago.  Also back for the Panthers are senior catcher and infielder Kimbur Mecham and senior outfielder Londyn wood.  Junior outfielders Brylee Egan and Shilo Egan are newcomers that West Jefferson will rely upon.

Playing clean defensively will be the key to our season," said West Jefferson coach Raquel Torgerson.  Torgeson also said that North Fremont and Challis-Mackay could be contenders in the Nuclear Conference.  Ali Drussel is a tremendous player for Challis-Mackay, and Firth will rely on Bridget Leslie and Shalayci Gunnell.  The Panthers have to be ready for every conference opponent.

St. Maries won District 1-2 last year.  Their reward?  An opening round game at state with Malad, the eventual champs.  After falling to the Dragons in the first round, the Lumberjacks rattled off wins over Nampa Christian and Declo before falling to West Jefferson and settling for fourth place.  Taci Watkins is one of the best pitchers in Class 2A, and her abilities give St. Maries the edge in the Central Idaho League.

Declo won the Canyon Conference and represented District 4 at state a year ago.  After an opening round win over Firth, the Hornets fell to Bear Lake and St. Maries in consecutive games.  The Hornets only lost two seniors to graduation, so a repeat conference title is within Declo's sights.

In District 3, New Plymouth and Nampa Christian both advanced to state a year ago.  The Trojans went two-and-out, while the Pilgrims went 1-2 at state.  New Plymouth is the favorite to repeat as Western Idaho Conference champion thanks to several younger players gaining valuable experience last year.  "We had some very good freshmen last year that played big roles on the team," Pilgrims coach Sam Crockett said.  "Now that they have a year of experience under their belt, I expect Abi Robinson and Jewell Bell to make a big impact on the team and in the conference."

Both Robinson and Bell pitch, and will be complemented by senior center fielder Lexie Eager in what should be a solid defense.  Junior Ava Shaw is another speedster that will join the starting lineup this year, and sophomore catcher Bella Barbee is ready for the full-time job after serving as Kendall Hoch's understudy last year (Hoch has graduated).  One key player that will be missing is sophomore Emma Myers.  She earned All-Conference honors as a freshman, but will miss the season with a knee injury.

Nampa Christian will once again be tough in the WIC, as catcher Harlee Ferdianand will lead the Trojans.  One dark horse team coach Crockett is looking at is Cole Valley Christian.  "They have a couple girls coming in from Eagle High that will be very good," Crockett said.  "Rumors of more going there could make them the team to beat in the conference."

Class 1A

The 1A State Tournament in 2021 was loaded with several outstanding teams.  So who won the championship?  Whitepine League champion Potlatch?  Nope.  Western Idaho Conference champion Notus?  Nope.  Glenns Ferry, who finished second in the WIC, defeated both Potlatch and Notus (twice) on their way to the title.  Madi Fink was Glenns Ferry's top performer a year ago, and she will be joined by solid players in Kyan Jackson, Kambelle King and Quinn King.

There will be lots of teams trying to knock the Pilots from their perch, though.  Notus returns Alexis Cudaback and Paige Emly, Rimrock is led by Maklay Moore, and Garden Valley boasts Katy Wentz and Katelyn Thompson.

Up north in the Whitepine League, coaches seem to be split on the favorite.  No matter what order they finish in, Potlatch and Prairie are considered the top teams in the league.    The Loggers return the one-two duo of Rebecca Butterfield and Emma Chambers.  Butterfield was nearly unhittable in the pitcher's circle, and Chambers was a force at the plate.  Potlatch did lose six seniors, though, so their spots will have to be filled.

Conversely, Prairie brings back quite a bit.  A team that featured just ten players managed to fight their way to state, and only lost two seniors: shortstop Madison Shears and outfielder Eve Uhlenkott.  "We are returning seven of nine starters that battled last year and worked very hard with small numbers," Pirates coach Jeff Martin said.  "Delanie Lockett is back after missing her junior year, and we have added six freshmen, so we are going to have competition at every position."

A lot of the Prairie softball players played together during volleyball and basketball season, and coach Martin is hoping that winning formula spreads to the diamond as well.  The returning starters for Prairie are senior Mackenzie Key (pitcher/first base), senior Josie Remacle (catcher), senior Laney Forsmann (outfield), senior Gracie Farr (third base), junior Tara Schlader (pitcher/first base), junior Riley Enneking (outfield), junior Amelia Uhlenkott (third base) and sophomore Ember Martin (second base).

Genesee was the third team from the north to qualify for state last year, and actually lasted longer than Prairie, finishing fourth overall.  Kendrick has a solid program coached by Morgan LeBlanc, and Lapwai is a dark horse as well.  The Wildcats' Sayq'is Greene and Jordyn McCormack-Marks are underrated players, according to Prairie coach Jeff Martin.  "Lapwai could surprise some people," Martin said.  "They have a lot of talent, and if they play consistently they will be tough to beat."

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