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

Manhattan softball
Posted at 7:20 PM, May 25, 2024

BILLINGS — The tears were flowing before the game even ended.

Manhattan pulled off an improbable rally Saturday at the Class B/C state softball tournament, coming back through the consolation bracket to win four games and capture the program's first championship.

The Tigers, after being routed by Shepherd 12-0 in a second-round game on Friday, beat Conrad-Choteau 13-2, Florence-Carlton 8-6, then defeated Shepherd twice in a rematch in the championship round, first by an 11-8 score and then by a 6-1 finish to cap a marathon day.

Morgan Pavlik
Manhattan catcher Morgan Pavlik, facing, hugs Tigers supporter Tamerah O'Rourke after winning the Class B/C state softball championship at Stewart Park in Billings on Saturday, May 25, 2024.

Through it all, Manhattan had fallen teammate Delaney Doherty at the front of their minds. Last August, Doherty, 17, was killed in a head-on collision, which left a gaping void in their lives and in the town of Manhattan.

But it also left them with a greater purpose — to dedicate their season and, ultimately, their championship run to Doherty's memory. Each player had a pink and white ribbon in her hair that read, 'Play For D.'

Thus, the tears flowed before and continued into the postgame celebration.

"We had that mindset all year; we're doing it for D, we're doing it for Delaney," said pitcher Emma Kabalin, who found a way to keep in check a powerful Shepherd lineup in both games of the championship doubleheader. "Everything we do is for her. We stick together for her.

"It's just kind of our mindset — we knew that she wouldn't doubt us and so we didn't doubt ourselves."

Aaila Matheson
Manhattan's Aaila Mahteson wears a ribbon honoring fallen teammate Delaney Doherty during the state championship game of the Class B/C softball tournament at Stewart Park in Billings on Saturday, May 25, 2025.

In the last of the two championship games, Kabalin scattered eight hits but gave up just one run. She struck out four and walked one.

With Manhattan leading 3-1, Shepherd loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth but Kabalin got consecutive first-pitch outs to end the threat.

If that wasn't enough, Kabalin added a solo home run for insurance in the top of the seventh. Two Shepherd runners reached base in the bottom of the seventh, but Kabalin's final strikeout ended the game and a tearful celebration ensued, although players and coaches were already crying before then.

Doherty's parents were there to see it all unfold. Players took pitchers with them and the championship trophy afterward.

"I didn't know at the beginning of the year what it was going to be like playing without Delaney," Manhattan coach Dennis Elgas said. "We knew she would always be there with us, but I didn't know how the kids were going to adjust.

"We sat down at the first meeting and said, 'Hey, we're playing for her all year long. And let's have fun.' We came together as a team. We had each others backs and it was an amazing year. They never gave up until the last out."

Manhattan coach Dennis Elgas
Manhattan coach Dennis Elgas celebrates the Tigers' state championship victory at the Class B/C softball tournament at Stewart Park in Billings on Saturday, May 25, 2024.

Abby Samuel went 3 for 3 with a double, a triple and three RBIs for Manhattan in the second championship. Morgan Pavlik scored two runs.

The Tigers forced a winner-take-all game against Shepherd by beating the Fillies 11-8 in the first championship game — a major turnabout after losing to Shepherd soundly in a second-round game. The Fillies blasted a combined nine home runs in two games on Friday.

In the first championship, the Tigers' Paige Ballantyne homered and drove in two runs while Samuel went 3 for 4 with two RBIs. Camdyn Holgate also had three hits, and Manhattan survived despite four errors.

Kabalin also pitched 5 1/3 innings of the first championship game, giving up four runs. But the Tigers had enough offense to help her and Pavlik, who came on in relief. Manhattan also escaped another bases-loaded jam unscathed in Game 1.

Of her home run in the second game, Kabalin said: "I think (Doherty) may have had something to do with that."

And as she worked to finish the game in the last half of the seventh, Kabalin had one thought: Doherty.

"I was thinking about her. I was like, 'Stay grounded, remember who you're doing this for.' She stuck with me and we stuck with her."

She stuck with them all. And the Tigers brought home an unforgettable championship.