SPOKANE — The setting was familiar for North Idaho College softball coach Don Don Williams, but the stakes were different.
Williams, who helped start the program from scratch two decades ago, remembers being in a hot Florida dugout in 2007 after NIC had just fallen in the NJCAA national title game.
A few maroon-clad fans had made the cross-country trek to watch the Cardinals play on junior college softball’s grandest stage, a group dwarfed by the support of nearby Chipola (Florida) College, the team that clipped NIC in extra innings.
On Monday, four years after leaving the NJCAA for the more travel-friendly, cost-saving Northwest Athletic Conference, NIC had the sizable championship contingent.
The Cardinals invoked the mercy rule in a 9-1 win over Edmonds College at Dwight Merkel Sports Complex, a NWAC Tournament title game rout 37 miles from their Coeur d’Alene campus.
NIC hoisted the same trophy at the same venue in 2018.
“This time we made sure we did a dogpile,” said NIC pitcher Madi Mott, the two-time NWAC Tournament MVP, back-to-back East Region Most Valuable Player and NWAC Player of the Year.
“We didn’t do one last year because I think we were so happy, we didn’t think to do one.”
Williams, whose Cardinals were a combined 88-12-1 the past two seasons, relished the home environment.
“There’s been tremendous support with the tournament here,” she said. “Any time you can compete for a championship, it’s a huge accomplishment.”
Having local talent helps.
Among the Cardinals’ key contributors were former Lake City standout Bailey Cavanagh, NIC’s hits leader (77) this season, and former University High star Brianna Hecker.
The majority of Williams’ recruits are from the region, including Mott, a Gladstone, Oregon, product who signed to play at NCAA Division II Saint Leo in Florida.
Mott was menacing in the circle and at the plate this season, leading the NWAC in ERA (1.61, 240 strikeouts) and home runs (27), tied with teammate Ashlyn Winn.
NIC’s Devinne Amesquita was third in home runs (23).
“Coach really preached being prepared,” Mott said. “We really came together after losing some players from (last year’s NWAC tournament championship team.”
Mott isn’t the only NIC standout who will continue her college career.
Winn, a Pocatello product, signed with hometown Idaho State. Taylor Anderson (Montana State-Billings) and Emma Profili (Minot State) have also signed with NCAA Division II schools.
Cavanagh and Amesquita are weighing their options, Williams said, and plan to play somewhere next season.
“You’re only as good as good as the athletes you recruit,” she said. “And we’ve had some good ones.”