FLORENCE – Hundreds of athletes will take their best cut at a state championship in Montana this week. Florence softball already has a pile of trophies at home, but the Falcons don’t want to stop.
The program has captured nine state championships over the past 18 years. With the ladies losing only a couple seniors off of last year’s team that brought home yet another title, the Falcons have kept rolling this spring.
They finished 21-4 and won four games in last week’s divisional tournament by a combined score of 67-4. If that wasn’t enough, Florence also knows exactly what it takes to succeed when the pressure turns up at state.
“It’s kind of exciting,” said catcher and third baseman Brooklyn Little when asked about the added intensity this time of year. “I think it’s exciting at least, because then you know good games are coming.”
“It’s definitely a goal, knowing that we can do it again,” added pitcher and first baseman Brianna Hoffman. “Pushing ourselves to the limit. Knowing that we’ve done it last year, it just makes us want to have that feeling again.”
“We’ve had quite a bit of success here lately,” understated head coach Rob Ralls. “I don’t think the jitters are quite as bad for us as they are for some teams going there. But I’ve always said the first game at state is usually the toughest to win, because everyone’s got the first-game jitters.”
Florence will open against Cut Bank in the opening round at 2 p.m. on Thursday, and Ralls stressed the importance of that first game. A loss means you have to win six games over two days to claim the state championship. But if you win, you’re only three wins away from a title.
But the Falcons will enter the state bracket with a ton of confidence. They averaged almost 17 runs per game in those four blowout victories last week, and the Falcons hope to keep their bats hot on the trip to Belgrade.
“We focus a lot on hitting,” said Hoffman. “And one pitch at a time, that’s all we go by. If it’s not your pitch, foul it off. Wait for the next one.”
“I think what gives a lot of teams problems is a lot of times we’ve got seven left-handers in the lineup, so as long as we can keep them going and a couple power hitters behind all of them — but you know, our lefties are hitting with power, too,” added Ralls.
The Class B-C state tournament will start with the Falcons’ first-round showdown versus Cut Bank on Thursday and end with the championship on Saturday afternoon.