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'Counting down the days': Belgrade softball seniors excited to cap off Panther careers by hosting state

BROOKLYN RAGLAND BELGRADE SB
Posted at 11:14 AM, May 22, 2024

BELGRADE — Since the Montana High School Association announced Belgrade would be the host site for the Class AA softball tournament this season, it has been at the front of the Panther seniors' minds.

"All of us have been counting down the days until our senior year where we can finish it off on our home turf, and we’re all excited that our family and friends come and watch us, and we’re just ready to show off what we can do," Belgrade senior outfielder Julia Blossom said.

Most of the girls on the softball team went through the youth program in Belgrade, and take much pride in representing the Panther softball program — getting to carry on the legacy of those who came before them.

"I’ve literally thought about the state tournament, I think, every day for the past three years," Belgrade senior third baseman Ella Seaman said. "So, it’s really special, and I’m so excited to end it with this team."

This senior core were freshmen the last time Belgrade softball won state in 2021, and whether they traveled with the team or celebrated back in town with them — they remember how special that moment was.

"I was a freshman," Seaman said. "I got brought to the state tournament, and I got to play. It was really nerve-wracking, but it was really fun, being apart of it, learning how it all worked. It’s really exciting."

"Yeah, I remember them coming home that night on the bus, and it was 10 o’clock, maybe 11 o’clock at night," Belgrade senior outfielder Ella Hoskins said. "I made a big sign that said ‘AA State Champs,’ so it was great.

"And riding on the firetruck through town, that was just awesome. I definitely remember that pretty vividly, and I really hope we can do that again this year."

The Panthers earned the No. 2 seed out of the East, which gives them a bye into the second round. Their season has seen highs and lows, and they’re looking to take that experience as a strength into this weekend.

"You kind of go through those ups and downs," Belgrade coach Joey Roberts said. "But, I think we had a rough stretch in the middle there. But, I think that really prepared us. Sometimes, you got to take a couple steps back to take a lot of steps forward, and I think this team has, kind of, accepted that."

"I’m really proud of us as a program, coming through, showing that we got this, and our bats can come together, along with our fielding," Belgrade senior shortstop Brooklyn Ragland said. "I’m really excited to see what we can do for state. This season we worked hard and showed that we can create runs when it’s hard for us, or get the outs when we need to."

Roberts, who has led this squad to a handful of titles both as a head coach and an assistant, knows what it takes to bring the glory back home to Belgrade.

"You know, it takes a lot of things going your way, that’s for sure," he said. "That’s the one thing I’ve learned. You know, we’ve been very fortunate to have the success we had in ‘17, ‘18, ‘19 and ‘21, but you really learn quickly, especially in the AA level, a lot has to go your way to win a state title. And, I think there’s a lot of talented teams here."