CALDWELL — A new tournament brought a new beginning for the Vallivue softball team Friday afternoon.

After missing state last year with a losing record, losing five senior players to Ridgevue and beginning this season 0-3, the first-year Win the Pitch Spring Break Classic has suddenly given Vallivue a new lease on life.

The Falcons defeated a pair of 5A teams on their home field on the first day of the Caldwell portion of the 16-team tournament. They downed the reigning 4A District III champion, Kuna 9-5 in the opening round, and throttled Hillcrest 14-2 for their sixth straight win to advance to the semifinals of the Caldwell regional. Eight other teams also competed in the Nampa regional at Ridgevue High School. Vallivue plays Capital at 10 a.m. today at Vallivue High.

“The bond this year is a lot better,” senior Emma Longoria said. “We work with each other on the field. We’re not playing for ourselves. We’re playing together and that’s a big part of why we were able to be so successful today.”

In the opener against Kuna, the Falcons (6-3, 1-0 4A SIC) troubled one of the state’s best pitchers in Mickey Kleffner. Longoria, Lauren Garman and Emily Fox all doubled off the Kuna ace in the bottom half of the first inning, giving way to six runs and a 6-1 lead after one.

Hattie Hruza got another double off Kleffner in the third, hitting a line drive 3-run double to right field and extending the lead to 9-3. Alyssa Goff and Avery Linder also each had a hit in the win, as Vallivue finished the game with six hits. The nine earned runs allowed by Kleffner, is the most she’s given up this season.

“That was a huge win for us, so we were really happy and impressed with ourselves,” sophomore Lindsey Henderson said. “We hit really well against a really tough pitcher and just came out really solid from the beginning and that set the tone for the entire game.”

Despite only getting four hits, the Falcons ran through Hillcrest in the quarterfinals. They jumped out to a 7-0 lead after two innings before ever recording their first hit.

Vallivue scored those runs instead by taking advantage of the Knights’ many blunders. In the first two innings alone, Hillcrest committed seven errors, four walks and walked in a pair of runs. The Knights finished the game with nine total errors and 11 of the 14 runs surrendered were unearned.

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“We hit the ball hard and that’s all we can do,” Vallivue coach Kevin Schimmelpfennig said. “That’s our job and we don’t worry about what’s happening on the other side of the field. A win’s a win and as long as we’re hitting the ball hard, you can’t ask more from your players than that.”

The Falcons finally got the bats going in the top of third with three hits. Rorie Lowe tallied Vallivue’s first hit of the game on a triple to center field. Henderson also tripled in the inning, lining a 2-run hit to right field.

“I really wasn’t thinking when I was up there hitting,” Henderson said with a laugh. “All I know is, I saw it go through the gap and it was pretty exciting.”

Goff and Kona Bustos both singled in the win to round out the Falcons’ hitting on the day. Goff and Hailey Sneddon combined to hold the Knights to just two hits on the day. Goff picked up the win in the circle, allowing just one hit and one run. In relief, Sneddon also gave up just one hit and one run, while striking out two.

“They played really good defense,” Schimmelpfennig said. “We’re starting to really come together. Even though this group is young, they’ve played together through the Vallivue rec program for a long time and have played on the same travel team for the last 5-6 years.

“They have good chemistry out in the field and understand what plays they have to make and what plays they don’t have to make. They have a lot of trust in each other out there and that’s made them really effective.”

After 10 year of competing in the 5A SIC, Vallivue dropped back down to the 4A SIC this season. The Falcons join a league that has produced 11 of the past 12 4A state champions, including last year’s winner Middleton and 7-time champion, Bishop Kelly. But with the way Vallivue’s been playing thus far, it seems to be fitting right in.

“We’re giving 100 percent every game and every practice,” Longoria said. “You’re seeing that right now and we’re doing pretty dang good because of it. I expect that to continue as the season goes on.”

Brandon Walton covers Ada County and College of Idaho sports for the Idaho Press.

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