POLSON — Two-time defending champion Belgrade looked dominant on Day 1 of the Class A state softball tournament on Thursday. Division champs Polson and Frenchtown also marched on, while Hamilton pulled off the lone upset in the second round. The Panthers, Pirates, Broncs and Broncs now all will play in the winners’ bracket on Friday.
Polson 11, Lewistown 1
The hosting Pirates and Northwest division champs overcame a slow start to blow past the Golden Eagles. Bailey Castillo hit an RBI double, one of two two-baggers on the day, to give Lewistown a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Polson came alive with six runs in the third to pull ahead. The Pirates scored three times in the bottom of the sixth to finish the game due to the 10-run rule. Josie Caye and Lexi Orien both homered for Polson. Orien drove in four runs in the game. Caye, Kallie Finkbeiner and Kobbey Smith each drove in two. Lauren Vergeront came one out short of a complete game, striking out seven Golden Eagle batters.
Hamilton 2, Hardin 1
The Broncs held off the Eastern A division champs for their second win of the day, thanks to an outstanding game from pitcher Jordan Taggert. The senior gave up only three hits and one walk while striking out eight. As if that wasn’t enough, Taggert also provided the game’s biggest hit, a two-run double in the top of the third, accounting for all of Hamilton’s runs. Natalie Edgar led off the bottom of the sixth with a double for Hardin and scored later on a sacrifice bunt. Hardin did put the tying run on first base in the seventh, but Taggert shut the door with two more strikeouts.
The two-time defending state champs came into the state bracket undefeated, and they proved why versus the Wildkats. Belgrade scored at least one run in all four innings they came to bat, finishing off the game in the fifth due to the 10-run rule. Madi Krieger hit a home run and drove in three runs leading the Panthers offense. Belgrade also took advantage of six walks. Erin Elgas picked up nine strikeouts in the circle, giving up only four Wildkat hits in the shutout.
Frenchtown 4, Laurel 2
The Southwest A top-seeded Broncs held off the No. 2 seed from the East in the hard-fought last game of the evening in Polson. Laurel scored first in the first on an RBI double by Riley Chapman. Hallie Habeck answered with an RBI single in the bottom of the second for Frenchtown. Then Taylor Garren changed the game with one swing in the third. The Frenchtown senior hammered a line drive home run to left with two runners on, putting the Broncs in front 4-1. That score held up until Taylor Feller clobbered a solo shot to bring Laurel within two in the top of the seventh, but they never brought the tying run to the plate. Frenchtown’s Claire Bagnell and Laurel’s Ella Crookston were hard to handle. The pitchers combined for 19 strikeouts, with Crookston punching out 11 Broncs.
Note: Click the game’s score line for video highlights.
Lewistown 7, Miles City 3
The Golden Eagles jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first, only to see the Cowgirls come back to take a 3-2 advantage in the top of the fourth. Lewistown responded with two more runs in the bottom of the fourth to take the lead back, and Miles City never threatened again. Hailey Welsh went 3-for-3 for Lewistown, and Macy Mangold and Bailey Castillo each drove in two runs.
After falling behind 2-0 in the top of the first, Hamilton exploded for six runs in the bottom of the inning. The Broncs’ lead would grow to 9-3 in the bottom of the fourth. Ronan didn’t go away, though, scoring two in the fifth and two more on an error with two outs in the top of the seventh. With the tying run at the plate, Abby Johnson made a great diving play at second base to end the game. Phoebe Howard drove in three runs for the Broncs.
The Wildkats came up with one more clutch hit than the Yellowjackets in the most thrilling game of the day. Columbia Falls led 3-2 in the top of the seventh. Down to their final out, Haley Kampka ripped a triple just out of reach of the right fielder that scored the tying run. But then in the bottom of the seventh with a runner on second and one out, Alyssa Blankenship grounded her third hit of the game just fair over third base, giving the Wildkats a 4-3 walk-off win. Columbia Falls led 3-2 after two innings, and the game stayed that way until the seventh-inning drama.
Laurel 10, Livingston 6
The Locomotives came out hot to start their tournament, scoring four runs in the bottom of the first and six runs in the bottom of the third to take a 10-2 lead versus the Rangers. Livingston came back with four runs in the top of the sixth to make it interesting, but Ella Crookston finished off the complete game win. Madison Cooney went 2-for-3 with three RBI, and No. 9 hitter Bailey Chapman added a couple hits and two RBI.
The Class A state tournament resumes Friday at 9 a.m. For updated scores and pairings throughout the tournament, please click here.