KALISPELL — Belgrade softball enjoyed success as a Class A program, winning state championships in 2017, 2018 and 2019. On Saturday, the Panthers will have a chance to enjoy that success in Class AA.
The Panthers defeated Billings Senior 7-5 on Friday in the undefeated semifinal of the State AA softball tournament in Kalispell. With the win, the Panthers advanced to the state championship game, which is no small feat since it's the first time the program has played since moving up a classification.
"I'm so excited especially for the girls. They've worked so hard. I mean, yeah, just like speechless," said head coach Joey Roberts. "And I'm just so proud of this team and this coaching staff. The girls have just done a wonderful job of coming, focusing, working hard. And we've had our ups and downs throughout the year and kind of getting acclimated to AA, but they've kind of rolled the stride with things. And here we are now."
Both offenses struggled early in the game, but Belgrade finally broke through with five runs in the third inning against Broncs pitcher Kennedy Venner. Elizabeth Ybarra scored on a throwing error, while Maddie Tomasetti picked up a pair of RBI and Tayler Thomas added one of her own.
"We really came on, we hit the ball good," said Thomas, who also held the Broncs scoreless through six innings as the pitcher. "We've struggled with (Venner) in the past hitting the ball, but we smoked it (Friday)."
The Panthers extended the lead to 7-0, but Senior came roaring back in the bottom of the seventh. Down to their final three outs, Dacee Zent got the Broncs on the board with a two-run homer, and eventually Senior scored five in the inning but couldn't come back to tie.
Senior will play Missoula Sentinel in loser-out action Saturday at 9 a.m. The winner will play Belgrade in the championship at 11 a.m.
For fully updated State AA scores and pairings, click here.