High School SportsHigh School Softball


State A softball: Last year's title-game teams Columbia Falls, Billings Central to meet in undefeated semi

Emirie Hastings
Posted at 5:39 PM, May 24, 2024

BILLINGS — Columbia Falls and Billings Central mirrored big early innings Friday night to send last year’s title-game combatants into this year’s unbeaten semifinal of the Class A state softball tournament.

Columbia Falls plated five first-inning runs on a its way to a 16-0 win over Laurel. Shortly after the Wildcats’ outburst, Billings Central batted around in a nine-run second inning and handled Polson 15-5. Both games were called after five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.

The third-round wins by Columbia Falls and Billings Central under the lights at Stewart Park set the Wildkats and Rams up for a 1 p.m. meeting Saturday. The winner gains a return trip to the state championship round, while the loser will have to battle its way back.

“We’re so excited,” Billings Central senior shortstop GG Hastings said. “We just love to play, regardless who we’re playing. It’s going to be so much fun when we see them tomorrow.”

Said Columbia Falls hitting and pitching star Maddie Moultray: "As long as we come in like we did today we should be good. We're hitting great. We just need to stay confident, stay loud."

Columbia Falls defeated Billings Central 8-2 in last year’s title game.

Columbia Falls 16, Laurel 0 (5 innings)

Though the first inning was a firestarter for the Wildkats, their third inning was even bigger. Columbia Falls pushed nine runs across to really put the game out of reach, especially with Moultray in the circle.

Moultray was dominated for her second straight game of the day, holding Laurel to one hit over her four innings of work. She also struck out eight. Haden Peters threw the final inning, giving up one more hit to the Locomotives.

Moultray hit a big home run as part of that first inning, and she added another hit to drive in four on the night.

"I came out with a lot of confidence,” Moultray said. “I think confidence is key in softball for the whole sport and everything, and I just know my team's behind me."

Onikka Lawrence had three hits in four at-bats. She drove in three runs and scored three times as well. Demye Rensel also homered for the Wildkats, who finished with 15 hits.

"So much energy. Everyone's up,” Moultray said. “I think it's really the theme carrying us right now. The dugout, the cheering ... everyone's excited for everyone else."

Billings Central 15, Polson 5

Both teams squandered chances in the first inning to put runs on the board. The Rams didn’t miss in the second inning.

Hastings plated the Rams’ first run with a bases-loaded walk, Allene Johnson scored another with an infield single, and Gianna Haney cleared the bases with a double to right-center for a five-run lead.

Billings Central eventually put nine runs on the board in the inning and the Rams were on their way to remain undefeated at 25-0.

The Rams graduated just one senior from last year’s runner-up team. While an undefeated season isn’t a total surprise given the returning talent, it’s not foremost on the Rams’ mind, either, according to Hastings.

“Just one game at a time,” Hastings said. “I think we’re just having a lot of fun together as a team. We just have the next game ahead of us and that’s what’s important.”

Hastings, Johnson and Emirie Hastings both had three hits. Led by Haney’s three RBI, eight Rams drove in Rams.

Haney also threw all five innings and struck out 10. She allowed home runs to Carli Maley and McKenna Hanson to account for all the Pirates’ runs.

The Rams scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth to end the game. One of those runs came on a laser home run by Hastings, who said she’s usually in bed by 9:30 p.m. Friday’s game ended just shy of 11 p.m.

“I’m a little bit tired,” Hastings said with a laugh. “But I’m going to sleep in tomorrow, so that’s OK.”

Also on Friday …

Billings Central 15, Dillon 2 (5 innings)

GG Hastings' three-run homer was part of a seven-run fourth inning as the Rams blasted their way past Dillon.

Hastings finished 3 for 4 with a double and five RBIs to go along with her homer. Lydia Todd also had a three-hit game for the Rams, who had 14 hits overall. Gianna Haney and Ally Kowalczyk contributed two hits each for Billings Central, a recipient of a first-round bye which remained unbeaten on the season at 23-0.

While the offense was collecting plenty of hits, Haney limited Dillon to just one in the five-inning game, which was shortened due to the mercy rule. Haney struck out 11 and Carlee Hofer also homered and doubled for the Rams, who knocked seven extra-base hits.

Emily Brevig had the lone hit for Dillon, which outlasted Lewistown 8-7 in 10 innings earlier in the day. Brevig drove in both Dillon runs.

Polson 7, Hamilton 3

Avery Starr and Carli Maley hit homers to power the Pirates to the win.

Maley homred in the bottom of the first for a 1-0 lead, and Starr led off the second with her own solo shot for a 2-0 advantage. Polson scored twice more in the inning on wild pitches, and that was all Starr needed.

Starr started in the circle for Polson and struck out nine in 6 2/3 innings. Samantha Rensvold came on to get the final out after Hamilton had placed two runners on base.

Dawsyn Ekin went 2 for 4 with an RBI for Hamilton, which defeated Havre 5-2 in the first round.

Columbia Falls 10, Ronan 0 (5 innings)

Maddie Moultray struck out 14 of the 15 batters she retired and allowed just one hit to lead the Wildkats, who received a first-round bye.

Moultray received plenty of help as the Wildkats knocked 13 hits and scored in every inning of the run-rule game.

Moultray had two of those hits, as did Haden Peters, Italia Hoerner and Bella Mann.

Ronan advanced to the second-round with a 7-6 win over Glendive earlier in the day.

Laurel 4, Frenchtown 3

Laurel catcher Ava Styles threw out the potential tying run at third base on a steal attempt to end the game, and the Locomotives held on.

The Locomotives, who received a first-round bye, scored all for of their runs in the first inning and then held on behind pitcher Adrienne Roth. Roth escaped a two-on, two-out jam in the sixth and allowed a seventh-inning RBI single to Alexis Godin before Styles helped close the door.

Styles also drove in two runs in Laurel’s four-run first inning.

Godin finished with two RBIs and Ryan Lucier and Aspen Courtney both had two hits for Frenchtown, which advanced to the second round by beating Lockwood 12-3 earlier in the day.

The first day of the tournament was rained out Thursday.

Friday's loser-out games

Frenchtown 10, Havre 0 (5 innings)
Lewistown 6, Ronan 4
Lockwood 9, Hamilton 2
Glendive 6, Dillon 1