MISSOULA — The Missoula Sentinel Spartans held the lead in the Western AA softball standings entering Thursday. Helena Capital and Helena High were both within striking distance, but after two thrilling games the Spartans extended their hold on first place.
The Spartans started the day with their first comeback, an 11-8 triumph over Capital. Sentinel turned a 7-3 deficit into an 8-7 lead with a five-run bottom of the fifth. Jalen Cooper drilled a triple and Cassidy Schweitzer drove in a run with a single, to go along with a run on a wild pitch, a sac fly and a run-scoring error.
Jenna Priddy quickly tied the game back up with a solo home run to lead off the top of the sixth. Grace Hardy then provided the determining hit — a two-run single to left in the bottom of the sixth. Kodi Fraser also drove in a run in the sixth. Capital did load the bases in the top of the seventh before Hardy pitched her way out of the jam to end the game.
Priddy also led off the game with a home run, as Capital scored three in the first inning. Ally McMillan then broke open the 3-3 tie in the fifth with an opposite-field grand slam. But Capital couldn’t hold the lead for long.
Sentinel followed up the high-scoring thriller with a low-scoring victory over Helena High that needed extra innings. The Spartans outlasted the Bengals, 3-2, in nine innings.
Neither team scored in the sixth, seventh or eighth innings. In the bottom of the ninth, Sentinel loaded the bases with only one out. Amy Taylor grounded to Amber Countryman, the shortstop quickly threw home to try to force out the winning run. But Addyson Gaub beat the throw, scoring the winning run for Sentinel.
A Shelby Dunwell RBI started the scoring for Sentinel in the bottom of the third. Riley Thennis answered with a run-scoring hit to right in the top of the fourth, then Helena took the lead with an RBI infield single in the top of the fifth.
Once again it was Hardy providing the needed a hit for Sentinel. The sophomore lifted a solo home run to left in the bottom of the fifth, bringing the game back even, 2-2. Hardy also pitched a scoreless 4 1/3 innings in relief to pick up the win in both games from the circle.
Helena and Capital didn’t come away completely empty-handed from their trip to Missoula. Helena smashed last-place Missoula Big Sky 12-0, and Capital crushed the Eagles 23-0.
The losses did drop the two Helena schools to third and fourth place in the Western AA, while Kalispell Glacier remained hot on Sentinel’s heels in second place. The Wolfpack won easily at Missoula Hellgate on Thursday, 21-0.