The State AA softball tournament in Great Falls chopped off a day from its traditional three-day format and wrapped up on Friday in an experimental schedule change for 2014.
The MHSA shortened the length of the eight-team tournament to see if 15 games of softball could squeeze into two days without any trouble, said Mark Beckman, executive director of the Montana High Schools Association. ASA tournaments do it all the time, he pointed out.
But should Montana’s state tournaments?
How many pitches is too many for a high schooler?
Well in baseball the un-written rule is 100. Much higher than that and the performance can attract some negative attention and criticism.
For softball players, though, pitch counts aren’t nearly as enforced because of the much less strain placed on the arm during an underhand toss.
That’s lucky for the Hamilton Broncs and senior hurler Brie Clifford.
Great Falls High and Great Falls CMR were part of the East-West Class AA softball exchange that blew through Missoula on Friday. Each stopped off at the respective Garden City schools for one matchup each in a tripleheader.
And boy did things go well for the Bison and Rustlers.
The Great Falls schools swept all three and again look like the favorites for the State AA title coming up in two weeks with the tournament held in, of course, Great Falls of all places.
Missoula Hellgate’s run to the championship game gave the Knights a unique set of circumstances as the State AA boys’ basketball bracket played out. The Knights would only face teams they’d lost to during the regular season.
Hellgate lost four games during the regular season starting with – in chronological order – Billings Skyview, Billings West and Helena Capital (twice).
In order to win a second straight state title, the Knights needed to beat – again, in order – Skyview, West and Capital.
When the Columbia Falls boys bumped Laurel off the championship track in Friday’s State A semifinal, Locomotives coach Patrick Hansen Jr. knew exactly who would win Saturday’s title game, even before C. Falls had an opponent line up for the finals.
The cards all pointed to the Wildcats, or at least Laurel’s bizarre pattern of semifinal state losses did. Including this weekend, the Locos have lost in four straight semis, each time the team they’ve lost to winning it all.
Like clockwork, the luck of the Laurel loss held true Saturday night when the Cats won their fifth championship in program history with a 56-47 victory over Dillon.
Had Wednesday night’s clash of state Nos. 1 and 2 been played as originally scheduled, Olivia Roberts likely would have gotten to enjoy senior night with her fellow Spartans.
Initially slated for last Thursday before a slew of blizzards and school closures, the rematch of last year’s State AA finals that yielded Sentinel its second straight championship was pushed back a week before the Spartans could pull off the coup of Capital.
Roberts, though, watched from the bench and missed her second straight game because of illness.
It’s been a long time since Missoula Sentinel wrestler Jaydn Wilson had lost a match at his Spartans’ home tournament, the Jug Beck Rocky Mountain Classic.
That’s three years to be exact. As he won his way into the semifinals of the 2014 addition of the tournament this weekend, the 37th such holding at Sentinel High School, he’d come to the spot where a freshman Wilson had been knocked off the championship path. In between were more than 15 wins.
Saturday marked the end of the regular season or divisional tournaments for Montana high school softball, The following are the final standings for western Montana’s divisions at all three class levels. Continue reading
Here’s a quick look at what we’ll see in the first round next week. Keep an eye on the Missoulian midweek for full previews.
State AA softball
At Great Falls
Thursday, May 23
2 p.m. – Kalispell Glacier (14-5) vs. Butte High (13-9)
2 p.m. – Billings West (19-4) vs. Helena Capital (14-8)
4 p.m. – Great Falls Russell (18-3) vs. Missoula Sentinel (9-14)
4 p.m. – Missoula Big Sky (14-8) vs. Great Falls High (18-5)
Most often when softball teams like Frenchtown, Polson and Butte Central congregate at the same athletics complex, there’s a Class A Montana state softball championship on the line.
When it happened Friday, the Frenchtown Invitational was to blame. Continue reading