BUTTE — Not only is the Butte Central softball team back in the state tournament, the Maroons are also playing host.
That advantage isn't lost on senior shortstop Maddi Kump, who was a freshman when Central last went to the state tournament under then head coach Kelci Thatcher.
"It feels really good, especially to have it at home," Kump said. "I can't wait for our crowd to come and everybody is real excited to be here."
The Maroons, who defeated Stevensville twice to end the regular season and lock up the No. 3 seed out of the Southwest A, will play Havre (No. 2 Northeastern A) at 1 p.m. on Thursday in the opening round at Stodden Park. The winner of that game will advance to face Laurel (No. 1 Southeastern A) at 5 p.m.
The Maroons began this season with just barely enough players to fill out a roster. Kump believes that ultimately served as a benefit for the Maroons.
"I think it's important that we were actually a small team, because it really pulled people together and made us work a lot harder every day because we didn't have a lot of people to fill in spots," Kump said.
Bill "Chunky" Thatcher, who came out of retirement this season to coach the Maroons, knows what needs to be done if the Maroons want to pull off back-to-back upsets and make it into Friday's semifinals.
"We've got to play error-free ball," Thatcher said. "During the year we've dropped pop-ups, fly balls and it's because they're young. I'm hoping they've matured enough to get the ball in the glove when the opportunity is there."
Thatcher, who before this season began wondered if he was too old to be coaching, made the promise that he and his players would compete but also have fun.
He's held up his end of the bargain.
"We've eaten pizza and cookies and everything in the dugout," he said. "It's been a fun year. It really has."