MISSOULA — The Missoula Sentinel Spartans head into this week’s State AA softball tournament as one of the top seeds after winning the Western AA divisional last week over Kalispell Glacier.
A good mix of seniors and underclassmen, the Spartans are led by Grace Hardy who has been starring all season long and whose career in her hometown is really just beginning. Next season she’ll suit up for the Montana Grizzlies.
That recruitment to Montana had its challenges, as Hardy dealt with injury during her sophomore year and also the canceled 2020 season that cost her her junior season, but ultimately she received an offer to join UM last fall and not long after made that commitment official.
"I’d broke my thumb sophomore year so I was a little nervous but I went through in the summer and went to all of their camps that I could and just stayed in contact," Hardy explained about her recruiting process. "Made sure they knew what had happened and that I was still going to try."
"(I'm) excited to watch her play at the next level," Sentinel coach Dustin Delridge said. "She’s certainly been our cornerstone of this program. A leader not only off the field but certainly on the field. She’s an easy person to follow and root for. We’re real lucky to have her."
The Grizzly commit and star infielder and the rest of her Spartan teammates are winding down what's been a strong season back on the diamond for them now as divisional champions.
"I think it boosted our confidence a little bit," Hardy said. "We were hitting the ball which is exciting to see going into state because we’re going to need that. We’re definitely solid now. We struggled a little at the beginning of the season but we definitely came through moving runners."
That confidence is what will carry the team forward in the final week of the season, as Sentinel enters looking for its first-ever softball title in school history. The Spartans open the State AA tournament in Kalispell against Great Falls High with the first game scheduled for 2 p.m. on Thursday.
"It’s super exciting, it’s a good way to go out," Hardy said. "Our underclassmen really came through this year and worked hard. I think our team is jelling really well. I guess I feel like some of us are a little nervous. The confidence from divisionals is really going to help us going into state."