By KATIE BROWN
The Daily Inter Lake
When Glacier takes the field at the Class AA softball tournament today at Stodden Field in Butte, it will be counted among the favorites of those vying for a state championship.
It’s the Wolfpack’s fourth postseason appearance in five years under coach Abby Connolly.
The Wolfpack won the state crown in 2015, was runner-up in 2016, missed in 2017 and was bounced in loser out play after losses to Billings Senior and C.M. Russell in 2018.
No. 1 seed Glacier has a rematch with No. 4 Senior, the team that knocked them out of title contention last year at 2 p.m. today.
“We are excited to get another swing at them in the first round,” Connolly said.
Glacier rode an 11-game win streak to end the season 16-3 overall and 10-2 in conference play. After bad weather and field conditions forced officials to cancel the Western AA Divisional tournament last weekend, Glacier was given the No. 1 seed as dictated by end of the season standings. Glacier wasn’t able to play in even one game.
The Eastern AA Divisonal was canceled because of poor conditions as well, giving them something in common with the Western teams — none will have played in the two weeks since the regular season ended.
Connolly held a scrimmage on Monday to keep players sharp for the tournament.
“We had a good week of practice, and we’re excited to go out and play,” Connolly said. “I think these girls want to play softball and they’ve had two good weeks of practice.”
Glacier has no seniors this year but returns five All-State players from 2018. Sophomore Kynzie Mohl and juniors Addie Labrum and Sophie Smith were named first team All-State. Juniors Sage Vanterpool and Allee Meyer were second team.
Though the Wolfpack might be young, it’s certainly not lacking in experience.
“I think this squad has really matured from last year to this year,” Connolly said. “They play like a mature group and handle a higher level of competition.”
Everyone is healthy too, which is often a rarity this time of year. Connolly credits the lack of injuries to the players’ commitment to fitness on and off the diamond.
“That’s really a testament to them,” she said. ”They put in a lot of time during the offseason.”
To beat Senior, Glacier will have to take advantage of the Broncs’ inexperienced freshman pitcher.
“We know they’re a really good hitting team,” Connolly said. “Our pitchers are going to have to pitch really well to keep their hitters at bay.”
Great Falls High (19-1), like Glacier, is on a roll. The Bison have won eight straight and are two-time defending state champions.
Great Falls plays fourth seed Helena High today at 4 p.m.
Columbia Falls takes on Stevensville in first round play at the Class A State Tournament in Polson today at 1 p.m.
The No. 2 seed Wildkats lost to Stevensville twice during the regular season.
“Hopefully tomorrow will be a different day,” Columbia Falls coach Dave Kehr said on Wednesday. “They’re probably the strongest third seed in the tournament.”
Stevensville lost to Hamilton and ended up with the No. 3 seed.
“They’re a solid team,” Kehr said. “They mix it up pretty well. We’ll have to play some defense on them because they are a very good hitting team.”
Stevensville is led by pitcher Syd Paul.
Polson beat Columbia Falls 7-4 in the last week of the regular season to snatch the No. 1 seed, though Columbia Falls had led the division most of the season.
“Some of the girls are going to have to step up,” Kehr said.
The Wildkats (12-0, 5-3) return 10 players from last year, including three All-State players — seniors Trista Cowan, Kaylee Ashe and Ryley Kehr.
While 17-0 Belgrade is the team to beat, “Anything’s out there for everybody,” Kehr said.
The Ronan Maidens secured their first-ever Class A state berth by beating Browning 12-0 on Monday.
Ronan snuck into the No. 3 seed over Libby by winning a set of tiebreakers, which included head-to-head matchups, runs and wins versus common opponents.
Polson has a first-round bye at state.
Class AA State Softball
2 p.m. — No. 1 Glacier vs. No. 4 Billings Senior
2 p.m. — No. 2 Billings Skyview vs. No. 3 Helena Capital
4 p.m. — No. 1 Great Falls vs. No. 4 Helena High
4 p.m. — No. 2 Missoula Sentinel vs. No. 3 Billings West
Class A State Softball
11 a.m. — No. 2 Lewistown vs. No. 3 Miles City
11 a.m. — No. 2 Hamilton vs. No. 3 Ronan
1 p.m. — No. 2 Columbia Falls vs. No. 3 Stevensville
1 p.m. — No. 2 Laurel vs. No. 3 Livingston
3 p.m. — No. 1 Polson vs. Winner of Lewistown vs. Miles City
3 p.m. — No. 1 Hardin vs. Winner of Hamilton vs. Ronan
5 p.m. — No. 1 Belgrade vs. Winner of Columbia Falls vs. Stevensville
5 p.m. — No 1. Frenchtown vs. Winner of Laurel vs. Livingston