MIDDLETON - Having squandered the chance to win the program's first 4A SIC regular-season title a day earlier, the Middleton High softball team took out any lingering frustration in the batter's box Wednesday.
The Vikings pounded out 19 hits in a 14-8 victory over Mountain Home to close out their 16-game regular-season schedule.
Middleton (14-8, 11-5) finishes in a three-way tie for second in the conference standings with Kuna (13-6, 11-5) and Skyview (16-5-1, 11-5), while Bishop Kelly (14-5, 12-4) claimed the No. 1 spot with a win against Nampa.
"That loss gave us a lot of motivation to get back up to where we belong," said Middleton senior second baseman Katie Bertoni, who had a home run, a triple and two RBIs.
While the Vikings won't learn what seed they will be for the district tournament until a coaches' meeting Thursday, they are assured the right to host a first-round game when the 4A District Three Tournament begins Monday. Only the top three teams advance to state.
"I don't think anybody's out of the mix. Legitimately, I think there's six teams that could take any of the spots," Middleton coach Rob Kiser said. "It is a clean slate, and it's a little scary right now."
Since moving up to the 4A classification at the start of the 2006-07 season, the Vikings have yet to make the state tournament. As a 3A school, Middleton won back-to-back state championships in 2004 and 2005.
But this could be the year the Vikings break through at the 4A level. Kiser, in his first season as the head coach, has challenged his team to believe in their abilities.
"We are excited to keep playing. We want to keep playing. We want to get to state," junior third baseman Tess Willis said. "Every single one of us has that drive, and we're not going to stop."
Middleton had a one-hit shutout going through four innings before Kiser decided to give his bench a little time on the field. Despite giving up eight runs over the final three innings, the Vikings' strength at the plate was never in question, as 13 different Vikings managed at least one hit.
"I think we are confident going into districts that we are going to do really well," Middleton senior center fielder Maddie Campos said.
Added Bertoni: "I definitely think that this is going to be a season to remember."
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