GREAT FALLS — It's been nearly two years but it's once again time for the State AA softball tournament. And once again, the Great Falls High Bison will be playing in it.
Though they’re still the reigning state champions from 2019, the Bison come into state this year in a different spot than they’ve been used to. They’ll be the No. 4 seed out of the Eastern AA after a tumultuous stretch the past few weeks. They’ve dealt with nagging injuries and a particularly chaotic schedule thanks to bad weather the week of divisional tournament and schedule conflicts with other schools.
"It really bunched a lot of our games at the end of the year. The travel is tough, because we're going from one end of the state to the other. And, you know, the girls were just road-weary," head coach Don Meierhoff said. "In the big picture, (we) went to divisionals, we made it to state, we got this extra time to heal up. So that's kind of been our goal all year."
By the time Great Falls High takes on the Western AA's top seed Missoula Sentinel on Thursday, it will have been eight days between games. The rest is nice, but playing all those games in a short time span is good to prep for state.
"I definitely think that prepares us mentally," said senior pitcher Morgan Sunchild. "We were able to play those games back-to-back-to-back like that. So definitely got us ready for the postseason."
The Bison know that to win it all, they'll have to play the best teams at some point. It was just in 2019 that a No. 4 seed found itself in the state championship. That was Billings Senior, which upset the Bison in the semifinal before Great Falls recovered and won it all.
"We're ready to play anyone in the state," senior infielder Ryen Palmer said. "I mean, in 2012 when these coaches first started, they went down as a 3-seed and beat Sentinel as a 2-seed. So did Senior, the 4-seed went and made to the state championship game. Anything can happen in the game of softball."
First pitch between Great Falls and Missoula Sentinel is at 2 p.m. Thursday at Kidsports Complex in Kalispell.