FRENCHTOWN – Two of the favorites kept dominating at the State A softball tournament on Friday. Belgrade and Hamilton each rolled past tough challengers in their only games of the day. Now the Panthers and Broncs will meet first thing Saturday in a crucial semifinal.
Defending champion Belgrade found itself in a pitching duel early in a winner’s bracket showdown against Polson. The Panthers’ Erin Elgas and the Pirates’ Vanessa Kent kept the game scoreless into the fourth inning. Then Belgrade came alive for a rally.
Olivia Cook, Presley Jacobsen and Khiala Rollins each provided line-drive RBIs to the outfield. When the inning finally ended, Belgrade had plated five runs and knocked Kent out of the game.
The two teams exchanged runs in the fifth inning. Then in the sixth, Lanie Morgan drilled the longest hit of the contest, a solo homer to left that had just enough distance, bouncing off the top of the fence and gone. Elgas finished off the complete game with seven strikeouts, and Belgrade advanced 8-1 over the Pirates.
Hamilton won by a similar margin, but built its lead much quicker. Miles City scored first in the top of the first, when Alexa Kappel hustled home on a wild pitch, but the 1-0 lead didn’t last long for the Cowgirls.
The Broncs took advantage of control issues from Miles City starter Arena Porter. She walked three batters, and allowed three runners to score on wild pitches in the first inning. Abby Johnson, Maggie Ringer and Mikayln Brickley each added RBI singles in the frame. Johnson’s base hit looked like much more than a single. She blasted a shot to center that hit the base of the fence. But with the bases loaded, the runner’s held to see if the fielder would make a catch, and each runner only moved up one base. Porter only lasted a single out, and the Broncs ended the inning up 7-1.
Hamilton added four more runs in the third inning. And with the lead in double digits, the Broncs finished it off due to the 10-run rule in the fifth. Sky Lopez struck out eight Cowgirls in a complete game, and the Broncs moved on 11-1.
Hamilton and Belgrade now meet at 10 a.m. Saturday in Frenchtown. The winner advances to the state championship game.
Polson and Frenchtown each survived loser-out action on Friday to remain alive. The Pirates and Broncs will also play at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The two rivals already met on Thursday, with Frenchtown building a 7-0 lead only to see Polson come back to win 10-7.
The Polson/Frenchtown winner will meet the Hamilton/Belgrade loser at noon Saturday. The winner of that game will meet the Belgrade/Hamilton winner in the championship at 2 p.m. The team that comes through the loser’s bracket will need to beat the semifinal winner twice to claim the title.
Friday loser-out scores
Lewistown – 3
Libby – 0
Butte Central – 10
Columbia Falls – 9
Frenchtown – 22
Hardin – 0
Havre – 13
Sidney – 6
Lewistown – 8
Butte Central – 4
Frenchtown – 10
Havre – 0
Polson – 7
Lewistown – 1
Frenchtown – 10
Miles City – 0