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Columbia Falls off to hot start with state aspirations in second year of high school baseball

Wildcats honoring former head coach and teammate this season
Posted at 1:20 PM, Apr 04, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-04 15:20:29-04

COLUMBIA FALLS — With high school baseball now in its second season in Montana, Columbia Falls has started its year undefeated. And while enjoying the early success, the Wildcats have their eyes set on state.

"I know that we have one of the most talented teams in the state and I'd be willing to put our team up against anyone," said senior captain Cody Schweikert. "Especially with our best guy on the mound and our batting lineup, I think we can definitely play with anyone out there."

With a perfect 4-0 start to the year, the Wildcats are feeling strong. With many of the team's players having been on the football team that went to the Class A state championship or the basketball team that placed third at state, they now bring a winning culture to the diamond.

"More than anything, I just call it mental toughness, because, I mean, we've had some coaches in our school that are hard on us and push us real hard," said Schweikert. "And that's carried over into all our sports and into this one, too.

"And they definitely push us to be our best and hold us to a high standard. And that's what has really made us such good winners, is because we've just been pushed so hard by everyone in our community, and they expect so much from us and we're able to come through."

The team has already faced early season adversity. They trailed last year's state champions, the Polson Pirates, 8-1 but came back and won 18-10 in extra innings, giving the team tangible confidence they can go the distance.

"We got to make it there with this team that we got, with the seniors we got, we got to do that," said senior captain Kellen Kroger. "Because if it's not, it's a bad season I would say for us. And I would love that, it’d be a dream for me to get there and win it. But you got to start right here and keep on working harder and harder every day and keep getting better."

That message has been drilled in by first-year head coach Chad Green who has 20 years of previous coaching experience at the Babe Ruth level.

"Our goal is, it's kind of cliche, but it's to get better every day. That's what I'm preaching to them; let's get better every day and make it to the state tournament," said Green. "Once you make it there anything can happen, so it's kind of state tournament or bust with these guys. So, they're buying in, they're putting in the work and we're hoping to be there."

While the team holds state aspirations, this year is also bigger than baseball, as they’re playing for Billy Sapa, their first head coach, and former teammate Josiah Kilman, who both unexpectedly passed away in the past year.

"I worked on the Sapa ranch when I was in high school, so I've known Billy a long time. I coached football here at Columbia balls with him, he's a friend of mine, and the kids obviously love him," said Green.

"His jersey hangs in our dugout every game, his jersey along with Josiah Kilman, he played on the team last year. So, we're kind of playing for both of those two. We know they're with us and their jerseys are hanging in our dugout every game."