FILER — The race for the Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference softball title was tight in 2018, but a familiar face was back to claim the title.
Top-seeded Filer High School downed last-seeded Buhl 14-8 at home on Tuesday night to claim its second consecutive district title, but it had to rally hard after the Indians grabbed a big lead early. Down 2-0, Buhl’s Aubrey Mahanah blasted a leadoff single in the top of the second inning, and the next three batters reached base on a hit-by-pitch, walk and another hit-by-pitch, which scored the Indians’ first run.
With three on and no outs, plus three of the first eight Buhl batters hit by pitch, Filer head coach Buck Taylor had to pull freshman McCarty Stoddard and put sophomore Aspen Ryan on the mound.
“When she hit that last batter, we had to make the change, but we knew with our offense, we had a good chance to rally back,” Taylor said.
Ryan gave up three doubles as seven runs scored in the inning, three charged to her, but she said she wasn’t nervous about the situation.
“I knew they were going to call on me to pitch eventually,” she said.
Throughout the rest of the game, Ryan was nearly untouchable. She allowed only one hit and one run through the next five innings, striking out seven batters on the night. The lone run scored on a sacrifice fly.
“I was trying to shut them down, even in (the second) inning,” Ryan said. “I don’t like giving up any runs.”
It made her job easier that the Wildcats began to rack up runs quickly in support. Filer plated four runs in the third inning to tie the game at 7-7, kickstarted by a two-run triple by Kailey Brown. She batted 3-for-4, knocked in five runs and scored three of her own in the game.
“She’s my district championship MVP,” Taylor said. “She was on base every time, and she’s really stepped up for us at shortstop.”
Ryan also plated three runs on the night on 2-for-4 batting with a triple and a walk, and Sami Taylor went 4-for-5 with two doubles and two runs.
Buhl faced the disadvantage of playing fresh off a 13-2 six-inning win in the final loser-out game against Gooding just minutes before the start of the championship game. The Indians’ senior ace Madison Somers was unavailable to start the game after pitching the complete game in the win.
“We knew they’d have to start their sophomore instead of Madison,” Taylor said, “so we were fine putting McKenzie (Stoddard) out to start as a freshman.”
Buhl’s run to the title proved the level of competition throughout the conference. The Indians entered as the No. 4 seed, yet ended up in the title game. They followed up an opening-round loss to Filer with wins against Kimberly and Gooding.
Buhl (11-14) will face the No. 2 seed out of District 1 on Saturday at Lewiston High School in a 3A state play-in game. The Indians reached the state tournament last year.
With the win, Filer (19-7) clinched a spot in the state tournament, held next week at Bonneville High School, just as it did last year. Filer beat Buhl 2-0 last May to advance to the state third-place game, which it won.
For Ryan, all she knows in her varsity career are district championship titles.
“I want to win it all four years,” she said. “It’s a goal for us now."