It took five days instead of three, and another road trip besides the first trip to Anaconda. If you ask the Florence Falcon softball team, it also took a lot of hot cocoa, blankets and most of all a coach that instilled the belief they could win. The end result, a championship comeback with another state championship banner on the wall.
The bad weather that plagued the state over the weekend was miserable for the players at the Montana State B/C tournament in Anaconda. Although Thursday was cold, Friday and Saturday made it seem balmy. The games that were scheduled for 4pm and 6:30 pm on Friday were postponed because the fields were in such bad shape from the rain, snow and cold that it was dangerous for the players. Saturday’s second championship game between Florence and Glasgow, originally scheduled for 4pm on Saturday, ended up being stopped after three innings due to the weather. The game resumed on Monday afternoon in Great Falls. The Lady Falcons had a one run lead when the game was called. They went on to win and take the championship, 7-3.
Florence met Glasgow three times in the tournament. The first time was in the undefeated game Saturday morning. The Scotties came back from being four runs down to win, 10-9. Florence scored all of their runs in the third inning with Courtney Byrne, Hayley Cole and Hailey Huot each getting two hits. It was only the third loss of the season for the Falcons.
The loss sent Florence to the consolation bracket in the double elimination tournament where they met up with St. Ignatius again. The two teams battled on Friday to a 7-2 win for the Lady Falcons. Once again the Falcons scored early and often. They swatted six runs in the first three innings and then played their tough defense to hold St. Ignatius to only two runs for a 6-2 win. Freshman Megan Byrne went the distance at pitching. Hayley Cole was perfect in the batter’s box, going 3-for-3.
“It would have been easy for them to quit,” said Florence coach Joe McKay. “Especially in that weather. But they are very competitive. They have been extremely determined since the beginning of the season to win this.”
McKay said his starting pitcher, Courtney Byrne had been battling blisters on three fingers of her throwing hand and had to sit out. “She had to grip the ball differently and it put her off. With wet balls and big seams, blisters are going to happen.”
The win against Mission put Florence in the championship game against Glasgow. This was also the Falcons’ third game of the day already. Florence scored two runs in the second inning but the Scotties came right back to tie in the third. They then scored a run in the fourth inning and five runs in the sixth inning to pad their lead. But Florence wasn’t done. The Falcons rallied back to score five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to take a 9-8 victory. Cody Miller went 2-for-3, as did Megan Byrne.
The win set up a second championship game. The weather was becoming more of a factor but the two teams took to the field for the game. Florence again scored early and had a one run lead when the game was called. The Falcons picked up right where they left off on Monday. Although Glasgow put two more hits on the board, the Falcons went on to win, 7-3. The Byrne sisters, Megan and Courtney pitched the game, relieving each other twice. Courtney Byrne had a triple and an RBI. Cass Skeers, Megan Byrne, Hayley Cole, Micayla Cole, and Hailey Huot all had RBIs.
“I’ve talked to them all season about winning this,” said McKay. “Maybe we’ve put a bit too much pressure on them. But all along I’ve told them, I want them to win for them. You never know when you’ll get another chance.”
Hamilton won their opening game in a slugfest against Billings Central, 15-14. Taylor Goligoski had a triple and two RBIs for the Broncs. The Polson Pirates stunned Hamilton, 25-3, in their second game. They then lost to Columbia Falls in their final game.