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Spirit of Delaney Doherty flows through Manhattan's state softball championship victory

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Posted at 7:57 PM, May 29, 2024

MANHATTAN — Well before Wednesday's celebratory ride around town, Manhattan softball players began their season reeling from the loss of teammate Delaney Doherty, who was killed in a head-on crash last August.

“The two words that have been used to describe them are kind of 'magical' and 'miracle,' you know? I mean, no one ever would have thought that this is how our season would have ended,” said third baseman Paige Ballantyne during the team's firetruck parade. “We thought about Delaney every game, every day.”

First-year coach Dennis Elgas wasn’t sure what to expect, but one thing was for sure — the team was going to adhere to its motto — to play and live like 'D.'

State B/C softball: Manhattan Tigers 'do it for Delaney,' rally for first title

“At the beginning of the year we sat down and said that we were going to play for Delaney all year and we were going to win a state championship,” said Elgas.

After a 12-0 shutout loss to Shepherd on the first day of the Class B/C state tournament last week at Stewart Park in Billings, the miracle and the magic showed.

“After we lost on Friday, we kind of got really motivated to like, okay, we're going to make it to Saturday and we're going to make some noise,” said pitcher Emma Kabalin.

The first day's loss was their motivation, and they went on to win five games in a row, including in a rematch with Shepherd in the championship round.

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“I think that when we stepped foot into the championship game, we knew that this was our moment, to leave it all out on the field. And Delaney was again just such an inspiration to all of us,” said pitcher Morgan Pavlik.

They won those two championship games, to win the program's first title, with Kabalin on the mound.

“I said I need to get one or two innings out of you and then I’ll bring in Morgan to relieve you. She was on a roll and I let her go,” Elgas said of Kabalin.

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Manhattan Tigers coach Dennis Elgas

With tears running down her face, she threw the final strikeout of the game, and her teammates flooded the field in celebration.

“There was definitely tears of sadness, you know, that the season was over and tears of joy because, you know, we just did that,” said Ballantyne.

“We know that Delaney was looking down and looking over us. And I know that the biggest smile's on her face when she saw that,” said Pavlik.

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Delaney Doherty

The support from the people of Manhattan was felt more than ever this season.

“We live in such an awesome, close-knit community. We're all so blessed to be able to have a community that loves and supports us so much,” said Kabalin.

Above all, it was their teammate Delaney Doherty that carried them to the top.

“We all kind of know that she saw what we did and she's proud of us, so it's nice to be able to know that she's probably beaming with joy up there right now,” said Kabalin.

“No one's ever going to forget what we've done with not only because of the state championship, but just what we've persevered through,” said Ballantyne.