Midway through his team’s softball game with Missoula Sentinel on Thursday, Big Sky coach Dennis Staves used a break in the action to sneak a look out past the centerfield fence toward the junior varsity field and the schools’ JV game that was underway there. He wasn’t sure what he was seeing.
Were those the Eagles up to bat? No, no, maybe the Spartans.
“It was just a bunch of black uniforms running around out there,” he said, a brief chuckle following.
It’s a familiar sensation when Sentinel plays Big Sky. Both schools’ standard unis are the same style and remarkably similar overall. It’s Black shirts, black pants, a subtle streak of yellow along the shoulders. The numbers on the back — colored blue in the Big Sky instances, purple for Sentinel — don’t look much different either with the yellow outline wrapping around them.
The best bet for differentiating? The stab of yellow on the Sentinel girl’s calves, maybe. Or check the socks, though a blue looks an awful lot like purple with the sun glaring in your eyes.
While players weren’t really in danger of a dire situation like accidentaly throwing to the opposing team, the constant matchups of near-matching digs were enough for Sentinel’s coaching staff to do something different. The Spartans ordered a second set of jerseys, predominantly white ones, to wear for their home games.
The order came in about half way through this season, Sentinel head coach Tim Gray said, finally giving his girls some variety in their softball closets.
“It’s tough (to tell them apart) and we’ve had a lot of games with Big Sky the last few years,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons we wanted to get the home uniforms.”
Most schools only have the one set. Big Sky happens to be like most schools here, with the Eagles sporting the same dark colors — typically reserved for the visiting team — whether home or away.
Buying new jersey sets, usually around 30 full uniforms, runs into the thousands-of-dollars range so programs are hesitant to make that kind of purchase often.
But next time these two teams play at Sentinel’s field, on-lookers from a distance will be glad the Spartans paid the money.