Sam Christensen had been up more than 24 hours before going to bed Sunday morning.
The Mountain View softball coach couldn’t sleep. Winning a state championship can have that effect.
The Mavericks beat Rocky Mountain 17-4 for the second 5A state title in program history and the first in five years at about 12:15 a.m. MDT Sunday in Coeur d’Alene. The win capped the most successful season in school history and cemented a year that those involved won’t soon forget.
“Honestly, it was just the connection and the special bond that we’ve had since the very beginning coming in,” Mountain View senior infielder Shelby Ribordy said. “I knew there was something special about this team.”
Mountain View walked away with the ultimate prize under crazy circumstances. It was one of only four teams to complete a first-round state tournament game Friday because of weather in a 13-3 six-inning win over Rigby.
The other two games were rained out and play didn’t resume until Saturday evening. It resulted in the tournament changing from the standard double-elimination setting to a single-elimination format.
But nothing about the Mavericks’ season had been ordinary. They kept it that way.
Mountain View upset previously unbeaten and the No. 24 team in the country, Lake City, in the semifinals 1-0. Junior Emma Smith scored the game’s lone run on a home run to left field in the final inning.
Yet, the real hero was Oakleigh Kearby.
The junior threw a one-hit shutout with two strikeouts against a team that was averaging more than 10 runs per game. This came just a week after she watched her boyfriend, Riley Harrison, fracture his skull on a line drive hit to the head.
“Going into that game, I was definitely hurting a lot, but I’m always playing for my teammates,” Kearby said. “I didn’t want to be the one to lose the game. I wanted to be the one to make sure that they got toward their goal because we’ve been going for this so, so much and everybody wanted to win so bad, so I pretty much just gave it my all for my teammates.”
However, Kearby and the Mavericks didn’t get to enjoy it for long. The softball fields at Post Falls High School, the site of the tournament, didn’t have lights. So they were whisked seven miles away to Ramsey Park in nearby Coeur d’Alene. The championship game didn’t start until 10:40 p.m.
The change of scenery and time had absolutely no bearing on them.
Mountain View cruised to a state title with a combined 16 runs in the third and fourth innings. Ribordy scored nearly half of those runs herself. The senior and College of Idaho signee finished the game with three hits, including a grand slam to center field and a game-high seven RBIs.
“I knew going into it that I had kind of struggled throughout the entire tournament so far, so I knew that I needed to redeem myself,” Ribordy said. “What better time?
“This one is up there for me. It’s one to definitely remember.”
The Mavericks finished tied for the most wins and with the best record in program history at 27-3. It eclipsed the 27-6 mark set by the 2014 state championship team.
Mountain View had at one point a 19-game winning streak on its way to winning both 5A Southern Idaho Conference and District III titles.
The Mavericks’ only blemishes occurred during a 3-2 loss to 4A state champion Bishop Kelly in the season-opener, along with losing two of three games to Meridian and Eagle toward the end of the year. They had the mercy rule evoked on them in a 15-1 defeat to the Mustangs on April 26.
“I wouldn’t necessarily call it a wake-up call, but I think we needed it though,” Kearby said. “I think every team has to lose to be successful. The loss just made us better and realize we’re not unstoppable and we have things we do have to work on.”
But that was Mountain View’s last loss.
It ended the year with a seven-game winning streak, the state record for the most home runs in a single season (61) — the previous record was 41 — an average margin of victory of more than nine runs per game and ranked No. 24 USA Today’s Super 25 Softball rankings.
So Christensen can rest easy now.
“What’s going to stick out the most when I look back on this is how we were a family,” Christensen said. “These girls always believed in each other and them supporting one another all season no matter what was incredible.”