MIDDLETON — Gracie Walters is a name everyone in the Treasure Valley knows.
The Ridgevue junior pitcher is a two-time All-4A Southern Idaho Conference selection after all. But she wasn’t the one who picked up the win in the circle in the rematch of last year's 4A state title game Friday night. That belonged to Reiss McIntyre.
The sophomore allowed just five hits and two runs with six strikeouts during 3 2/3 innings of work in Ridgevue's 8-2 win over reigning three-time state champion Middleton in 4A SIC action at Middleton High.
"Honestly, this year I have a lot of confidence in Reiss," Walters said. "She has come so far and put in more work than honestly anyone on the team. Having her help me is amazing, I love it. I know when I'm not pitching, I don't have to worry because I have so much confidence that she is going to do good. It puts lets stress on me and I can actually just enjoy the game. It's so nice."
McIntyre was on varsity last season, but pitched sparingly. However, it's been a whole different story this year.
She and Walters have alternated starts. McIntyre has held her own too. She is 4-0 and has allowed just 4.7 hits and 1.7 earned runs with 27 strikeouts to eight walks.
Walters is also 4-0 and has given up 2.6 hits and three earned runs with 60 strikeouts to six walks.
"Together, we're a force that nobody can really beat," McIntyre said.
Walters echoed that statement.
"No other team has that honestly. And we have such a tight bond. Normally pitchers on teams one up each other. But I feel like we work together and I think that's awesome."
McIntyre was the one who got the start and didn’t waste any time showing off her stuff with two strikeouts in the opening inning. She fanned two more in the second inning before getting a strikeout apiece in the third and fourth inning.
"This definitely shoots up my confidence," McIntyre said. "I had some butterflies definitely, but when it came down to it, I just knew that I needed to get in the circle and throw and do my thing. But I couldn't of done this without Gracie. I look up to Gracie so much. She has been such a role model to me."
The only time McIntyre got into a little bit of trouble was in the bottom of the fourth inning. Middleton’s Gracie Redding got on base thanks to a fielding error and Kodie Ashby singled with a bunt with Ridgevue holding a slim 3-2 lead.
But that’s when Ridgevue coach Dave Kemper turned to Walters. She got the Warhawks (8-0 overall, 4-0 SIC) out of the jam by striking out Lainey Lyle with runners on second and third base. Walters spotted Lyle two balls before getting her out with three straight strikes.
Walters was virtually flawless the rest of the way. She allowed zero hits with seven strikeouts, including one on Lyle to end the game. Her only blemish was a walk to Hannah Mikel in the fifth inning.
But Kemper was just as impressed with McIntyre.
"Randall crack and fire is her name," Kemper joked. "I think she did a great job. She's working hard and has a great mentor in Gracie. We just need her to keep plugging away and keep doing what she's doing. It's a phenomenal deal to have someone like her take innings off of Gracie."
The duo of Walters and McIntyre combined to give up just five hits and two runs. They also totaled 13 strikeouts between the two of them.
Carly Pena went 4 of 5 from the plate, including a double, and a RBI for Ridgevue in the win. Katie Rameriz added three hits, featuring a third-inning solo home run shot to left field that just curved inside the foul pole, and a RBI. Walters, Budda Blum and Maddie McKay all had two hits for the Warhawks, who recorded 15 on the night
Madison Cowles tallied a double and a RBI for the Vikings (4-2, 2-2), who were once again without ace and three-time SIC Player of the Year, Lyle. The North Dakota State signee has yet to pitch this season because she is still rehabbing from a previous injury to her throwing arm. She is expected back soon but there is no timetable for her return.
Sheridan Mortensen and Jensyn Maughn combined to allow 15 hits, eight runs and five walks in Lyle’s absence. They also only had two strikeouts, both by Mortensen.
Ridgevue opened the game up at 6-2 in the top of the sixth inning with three runs. Pena and Walters both had blooper RBI singles to left field, while Pena stole home for the third run.
That lead was extended even further at 8-2 after Jazmin Ramirez and Blum were walked in by Mortensen.
"It's really good for the kids to understand that our program is not built on one player," Middleton coach Rob Kiser said. "They have to understand we have to find ways to win regardless of who's pitching."