Wood River High School softball’s 2023 season ended in Burley on May 11, two wins short of a state berth.
The Bobcats beat the Wolverines, 4-2, in game four of the Great Basin 7 tournament. With a spot in state on the line, Burley went on to fall to Jerome in the second-chance bracket of the double-elimination tournament. Jerome and Twin Falls will represent District IV in the ISHAA 4A softball tournament Friday and Saturday, May 19-20.
With the loss, the Wolverines finished 13-13 in a strange, snow-marred year that saw Wood River open the season with 18 straight games away from home. The .500 record falls short of last season’s 18-9 mark, but remains a steady improvement for a senior class who endured a 3-21 campaign as sophomores.
“It was tough to see these seniors go out with so much adversity this year with weather, no home games, practicing in the gym and mostly traveling all over and nothing was ever consistent,” Coach Matt Nelson said. “They continued to play hard everyday. I wish we could’ve pulled out a couple more victories for them.”
Senior Jette Ward got the ball in Burley and, save one loud swing, kept the Bobcats in check. Ward threw three innings, allowing four runs on just two hits. One of those hits—a three-run homer with two outs in the third by Kaymbri Beck—put the home team up for good.
“It was really the only mistake Jette made all day,” Nelson said. “She left a changeup up in the zone and Beck got just enough of it to leave the yard.”
Sophmore Makinzie Nelson struck out six Bobcats in three innings of relief.
“Jette has been phenomenal all year,” Matt Nelson said. “She locates well and keeps hitters off balance. Then, bringing Mak in to change the speed once again has been a formula that has worked all year. Today, we just didn’t get that big hit we needed to push a couple more runs across.”
Sophomore Emmalese Nilsen continued her hot postseason at the plate, opening the scoring with a solo home run in the second inning. But, Burley’s Hayley Vaughn kept the Wolverine’s offense quiet all day, scattering three hits and two runs over seven innings, striking out three in the win.
“The girls played hard until the end,” Nelson said. “We hit the ball hard but unfortunately we hit it right to someone.”
The Wolverines return six members of the varsity team in 2024. Ward, Gretchen Atienza, Kacie Flolo, Grendel Sprong, Brooke Black and Bella Hadam will graduate in the coming weeks.
“Burley is a young team like us,” Nelson said. “I would expect a few more battles like this down the road. Hopefully we will have a few more Ws on our side.”
All told, Wood River’s disjointed schedule did little to slow down the team’s leaders. Nelson, the pitcher, struck out 182 batters in 104.1 innings pitched; on offense, she hit .568, with 20 doubles and four triples.
Senior Grendel Sprong hit .470 with a team-leading seven home runs. (A two-sport standout, Sprong committed last month to play hockey at Division III St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin.) Nilsen added five home runs, including her shot in the final game, hitting .430 on the year.
In all, the team scored 198 runs—including 15 homers—while hitting .353 as a team.
“Looking forward, we have a bright future and a young team. We do lose six seniors but we have a core of highly committed and very athletic players in the sophomore and freshman classes, not to mention a very good eighth grade class coming in.
“Softball has some real traction right now, and I am very excited for the future.” ￼
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