BELGRADE — As members of the Belgrade softball team climbed the ladder, one fireman turned to them, smiled and said, “You guys are getting used to this.”
Yes, they are.
In their last Class A softball game, Belgrade went out the only way it knew how, as champion. The Panthers defeated Polson 11-1 on Saturday to claim their third consecutive state title, and, on Tuesday afternoon, they celebrated in style.
The softball team, along with the Belgrade Unified Relay state champion team, got to take a firetruck ride around town. Celebrations like this have become a habit for the Panthers, who completed a perfect 23-0 season. But this team had to battle through a lot of ups and downs to earn its trophy.
“I would say team effort. That’s what comes to mind first, is that we had a lot of adversity in the offseason, we had a lot of things that could’ve torn us down, and we decided as a team that we were all going to be committed, that we were going to be in this together, and that’s what we did,” said Belgrade head coach Andrea Folkman.
Folkman, who was an assistant coach last season, stepped into the head coaching role this year. After stringing together 23 straight wins in her first season at the helm, she earned the Central A coach of the year award.
“I feel like (the award) goes to the coaching staff also. I’ve gotten such good support from them and they’ve been so dedicated that it’s hard to say that this is a one-person show, but this is a total team effort,” Folkman said.
And that team got to celebrating once again with another parade around town. Even though for some of these players it’s the third time taking a victory lap on top of a giant red truck, the ride never gets old.
“It’s always a good feeling,” smiled senior pitcher Erin Elgas. “After a long season, every single time winning at the end and the firetruck rides and everything, it’s the best feeling.”