BELGRADE — Despite thunderstorms in the forecast Friday, the weather at the State A softball tournament in Belgrade held off all day allowing teams to make up the games that were suspended and postponed on Thursday.
Laurel and Columbia Falls took care of business earlier in the day in their second round matchups and then emerged in tough games against Havre and Billings Central respectively to advance to Saturday’s undefeated semifinal in the winner’s bracket.
Laurel 3, Havre 0
Adrienne Roth only allowed one Havre hit in seven innings of work, to lead the Laurel in a 3-0 shutout of Eastern A champion Havre.
Roth faced 24 batters and only recorded two strikeouts, but the Locomotive defense was brilliant and made several key plays in the field to preserve the win.
Laurel broke through in the third inning when Josie Benson hit a sharp grounder to third that got past the infield, scoring Emmy Gunther.
On the very next at-bat, Delilah Hernandez hit into a fielders choice. Havre made the play at second, but the throw to first was off the mark and Tierra Langford scored from third.
There was contact between the batter and the fielder at second base, which Havre head coach Tony Vigliotti argued should have been called runner interference. Vigliotti was ejected from the game with the Ponies down 2-0.
Laurel added one more run in the top of the seventh, when Langford singled on a line drive to center, bringing in Taylor Strecker. But Havre couldn’t manufacture any offense, only managing to get three runners on base the entire game.
The Locomotives advance to the undefeated semifinal, where a win over (1W) Columbia Falls would put Laurel in the title game for the fifth time ever. Laurel is 1-4 in championship appearances, winning its only title in 2006.
Columbia Falls 4, Billings Central 3
The Columbia Falls Wildkats turned in a clutch performance, topping Billings Central 4-3 with late runs to advance to Saturday’s undefeated semifinal against Laurel at the State A tournament in Belgrade.
After four scoreless innings, the Rams broke through in the fifth with the first run of the game on when Gianna Haney scored on a throwing error during a pickoff attempt at third.
Columbia Falls responded in the bottom of the inning with a two-out, two-run home run from Demye Rensel to briefly give the Wildkats the lead.
Billings Central equalized in the top of the sixth. Allene Johnson scored from third after an RBI groundout from Haney to make it 2-2 entering the bottom half of the frame.
But with two outs and no runners on base, Columbia Falls went to work. Haden Peters and Syd Mann recorded back to back singles to get two runners on base. The Rams opted to intentionally walk Maddy Collins to load the bases, making any play a force out.
But Sophie Robbins had other ideas, hitting a fly ball to center field for a two RBI single, driving in Peters and Mann to make it 4-2 entering the seventh inning.
Billings Central managed to score a run to cut the deficit to one. But with the tying run at the plate, Maddie Moultray struck out Madge Prill and the celebration was on.
Moultray pitched another gem, going seven innings and allowing only three runs on four hits while striking out eight.
Second-round games ...
Columbia Falls 16, Hamilton 3
The Wildkats scored 11 runs in a decisive fourth inning to advance to the quarterfinals of the State A tournament in Belgrade, 16-3 over Hamilton.
Aspen Dawson drove in five runs for Columbia Falls, and hit one of three WildKat home runs in the win. Haden Peters and Maddy Collins also went over the fence.
Maddie Moultray earned the win for Columbia Falls, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out 11 batters in five innings.
Casey Kennedy hit a two-run home run for Hamilton in the fourth, while Mariah Johnson added an RBI in the fifth inning.
Columbia Falls is two wins away from advancing to its first ever State title game.
Billings Central 10, Frenchtown 0
Courtney Hofer homered twice and the Billings Central Rams shutout defending champion Frenchtown 10-0 in a rematch of the 2022 State A title game.
Central set the tone in the second inning with five runs, including a towering two-run home run from Hofer that landed behind the spectators in center field. Hofer had four RBI’s in the game.
Genevieve Hastings went 4-for-4 in the leadoff spot for the Rams, scoring two runs and adding an RBI. Lydia Todd was also a perfect 3-for-3 from the plate.
Gianna Haney had a great showing on the mound, allowing no runs on just two hits while striking out 11 batters. Carah Evans and Alexis Godin each recorded a hit for the defending champion Broncs.
Laurel 15, Polson 6
There was no letdown for Laurel after sitting on a 7-3 lead overnight due to a suspension of play. The Locomotives picked up where they left off and topped Polson 15-6 to advance in the winners bracket.
Laurel scored seven runs in the sixth inning to pull away from the Pirates. Arlette Nieto, Mia Anderson and Madison Moorman each recored three RBI. Josie Benson scored four runs on three hits and added two RBI.
Carli Haley led the Pirates with two hits on the day, including a home run. Rachel Miller earned the win on the mound for Laurel, allowing six runs on eight hits while striking out six.
Laurel advances to face Eastern A rival Havre in the undefeated quarterfinals.
Havre 10, Libby 4
Havre trailed 2-0 in the bottom of the second inning when play was halted on Thursday night, but they had the bases loaded with two outs.
When play resumed, the Blue Ponies grounded into a fielders choice to end the inning but found life in the third inning, scoring three runs and tying the game. Havre tallied 12 hits in the game, with Hannah Gingery recording three of them to go along with two RBI.
Elle Verploegen earned the win on the mound, allowing just four runs on 12 hits. Gingery, Avery Carlson and Jersi Morse all managed multiple hits in the game. Peyton Waggoner hit a solo home run for the Loggers, one of two hits for her on the day.
Eastern A champ Havre, which has never won a state softball title, advanced to face division rival Laurel in the undefeated quarterfinals.