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.
CMR (now 16-2) was already the champions of the Eastern AA division before its little nonconference trip west. The Rustlers manhandled Western AA winner Missoula Hellgate (12-7-1) in a resounding 18-2 victory.
It wasn’t much closer when Big Sky’s (15-6) turn came either. CMR took that one 11-0 in another game cut to five innings because of the 10-run margin rule.
“Oh they’re good; they’re obviously the team to beat,” said Big Sky coach Dennis Staves, whose team is tied for second in the West. “They’re solid all the way through.”
CMR was the No. 1 seed from the East in the state bracket last year, as they are again this season having won the league to earn the automatic bye. Great Falls High upset its crosstown foe in the second round of the 2013 tournament and went on to win the whole thing.
The Bison (13-6), this year’s divisional third seed, fared just as well as the Rustlers in their trip to Missoula, beating the city’s top two teams 6-4 and 2-1 in matchups with Hellgate and Big Sky, respectively.
“I think Great Falls High does this every year,” Staves said of the Bison’s hot stretch at the end of the season. “They’re a dangerous team, too.”
Big Sky and Hellgate at least salvaged one win from the downer of a day, both beating Eastern AA last-place Bozeman. All three East schools dispatched Sentinel in the third meeting of the day.
So despite their solid standing in the Western AA ranks — Hellgate has already clinched a state spot while Big Sky will host a play-in series next week — it remains to be seen whether the Knights and Eagles can hang with the beasts of the East.
The State AA tournament begins May 29 at the Multi-Sports Complex in Great Falls.