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State softball recap: Favorites end on top, though it wasn’t easy

Posted: 6:20 PM, May 26, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-28 16:15:06-04

BILLINGS – History will say all three favorites won the 2019 MHSA State softball tournaments, but anyone who paid attention will remember it wasn’t that black and white.

Defending Class AA champion Great Falls High lost to Billings Senior in Friday’s undefeated semifinal, before coming back to win three games Saturday, including two against the Broncs to claim a second straight title.

The Bison hit 14 home runs on the weekend – three in the second championship game. Great Falls senior Shea Larocque said the team wasn’t necessarily nervous with their backs against the wall, because they knew exactly what they could do.

“We just took it game by game, didn’t want to look ahead to the championship,” Larocque said. “We just wanted to make sure we worked hard, didn’t want to look too far in the future.”

Belgrade looked the most like a favorite. The two-time Class A champs became three-time champs, finishing an undefeated season and out-scoring the competition at the tournament in Polson, 34-5.

“It’s so awesome,” said left fielder Madi Krieger. “We just play as a family. We always have each other’s backs. So it’s just awesome that we came with a bang for the third time. I felt it. I think we all did.”

“Every single person contributed,” said head coach Andrea Folkman. “We used the short game. We used the long game. We did a mix of everything to get base runners through.”

Next year will be the Panthers biggest challenge yet – they lose seven seniors and will move up to Class AA.

Meanwhile, it was another Huntley Project – Florence-Carlton matchup in the Class B/C State softball championship. In 2018, it was the Falcons coming away with the win, but this year Huntley Project would deny their three-peat, and exact their revenge.

“Last year’s memory pushed us to want this even more,” said pitcher Addison Hultgren. “Obviously they wanted it too. They are such a great team, always good at softball.”

“They did a good job being able to do that themselves,” head coach Tim Bastian said of his team’s ability to focus. “They knew what they wanted to do this year. They knew the end goal, and they looked like they were bound and determined not to let that happen again.”

It was Huntley Project’s first state title in program history.