It is almost unbelievable at a state tournament that a team could dominate the way the Florence Lady Falcons did in Belgrade last weekend at the State B/C tournament. The team only allowed three runs in four games and only one game went the full seven innings. They defeated Huntley Project,10-0, for the 2018 championship.
It’s been 20 years since Class B/C softball has been an official part of the Montana High School Association. In those 20 years, Florence has won the championship 10 times. They were state champs in 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, and now, 2018. They also placed second four times and third or fourth a couple of times.
Florence’s ace pitcher, Brianna Hoffman, had to battle through pain in the championship game after tweaking her back in Friday night’s game while batting. But the senior, who had struck out 34 batters on Friday, came through for the team and only allowed two runs. Hoffman went to a chiropractor who treats athletes on Friday night and again on Saturday morning according to coach Rob Ralls. She struck out 13 batters in her final game as a Lady Falcon.
The game was scoreless until the fourth inning when Natalie Dulac slammed a home run over the fence. That run opened the gates for the Lady Falcons who scored five more runs in the inning and then closed out the game in the fifth with four more runs. Shannon Byrne had three hits with three RBIs. Rilee Mangun had two hits and two RBIs as did Emilee Kinnaman.
The Lady Falcons had to come from behind in the first game of the State Class B softball tournament in Belgrade onThursday. Cut Bank was ahead, 3-2, in the third inning with the bases loaded when Coach Rob Ralls switched out Shannon Byrne for Brianna Hoffman. That proved to be the difference in the game. Hoffman struck out six Cut Bank players in the next four innings and only allowed one runner on base on an error.
The tough pitching heated up the Lady Falcons’ bats and they went to work. Florence scored 11 runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings to to win, 13-3. Byrne went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Danielle Zahn had two doubles and was 3-for-3 at bat with an RBI. Danara Greer had two doubles on two hits. Emily Kinnamon has two hits with a double and two RBIs.
Florence took on Huntley Project, the No. 2 seed from the East, in the quarter finals. It was Dulac that opened up the scoring for the Lady Falcons in the first inning. She hit a homer that scored three runs in her first at bat. Teammate Dani Zahn followed with a two-run homer to bump the score. Then Hoffman settled down and proceeded to strike out 19 in the 6-1 victory.
Florence had to come back later on Friday to play Loyola in the undefeated game. Loyola had upset Shepherd, the No. 1 team from the East, on Thursday, and Eureka on Friday. Hoffman was again the pitcher and held the Breakers scoreless in the 10-0 five inning game. Mangun, Brooklyn Little, Zahn and Hoffman all had doubles. Little knocked in two runners while Mangun and Hoffman each had one RBI. The win put the Lady Falcons into the championship game.
“Our offense was potent,” said coach Rob Ralls. “Natalie Dulac hit a home run to get us going in the first game. Dani Zahn had good hits and Rilee Mangun hit her first home run in the tournament. Shannon Byrne was solid, she’s kind of the motor for the team. And our middle of the line came through too.”