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Q2 AOW: Boulder-Arrowhead/Big Sky softball team 'vibin' on way to regional title game

Boulder Arrowhead Big Sky softball 2023
Posted at 4:52 PM, Jul 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-28 20:42:46-04

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — It's amazing the difference a year makes.

"Last year, the expectations were so low — we exceeded everybody's expectations," said Jaime Nelson. "This year is a different vibe."

The Boulder Arrowhead-Big Sky softball team made history in 2022 as the first Montana Little League softball team to ever advance to the Regional semifinal, even surpassing it on their way to a title game appearance.

That championship loss, though, has driven this year's team — with many of the same players — to reach higher.

"We expected to accomplish more," Nelson, the team's manager, said. "There's a little more pressure, but we’re here to meet it."

They certainly seem more loose, especially outfielder Jill Harris, who was caught dancing on camera during the team's opening round 6-0 win over Wyoming at the Northwest Regional in San Bernardino, California.

"I was just dancing on first base while they were having a hydration break," Harris said. "I'm not normally (a dancer), but in certain situations, I will dance for fun and to make people laugh."

As fun as Saturday was, Sunday was the real test. Down 10-0 to Washington — the team that beat BABS in last year’s regional championship — the Montana state champs scored 15 unanswered runs for some sweet revenge.

"We did not lose hope," Harris said. "We had one of the other teams cheering for us in the stands. The parents were all cheering for us, and everyone in the dugout was loud and trying to pump up each other. It was fun to see."

The win put the team back into Wednesday’s regional semifinal, which it won 7-2 over Oregon for a spot in Friday's championship game. One big difference this go-round: new catcher Emma Hernandez. She'll tell you one thing about her debut.

"The first game I was definitely nervous. All the cameras being on me kind of got to me," Hernandez said.

But she seemed plenty ready for prime time, gunning down a runner in the bottom of the first — with some swagger.

"After that game, I had 50 text messages from people just saying, 'Good job.' Stuff like that," she said smiling.

Numerous off-the-field activities — like a day at the beach — sit top of the mind for most of the players' favorite moments. But when it comes down to it, there’s still one mission. The regional championship will be played Friday at 7 p.m. Mountain time and can be seen on ESPN.

"The whole team’s goal is to get to the World Series," Harris said.

With the best vibes possible.

The Boulder Arrowhead-Big Sky softball team waves Montana flags on the field of the 2023 Little League Softball Northwest Regional in San Bernardino, CA.