In a rain-shortened divisional tournament, the Florence Lady Falcons will make the trip to the Class B State Softball championship tournament in Belgrade this weekend. With back-to-back state championships under their belts, this Florence team will have a giant ‘X’ on their back even though they go in as the No. 2 Seed from the west. And with 10 championships over the last 20 years, that ‘X’ gets even bigger.
The Lady Falcons have been struggling with injuries this spring. Key to their defense is ace pitcher Shannon Byrne who sustained a high ankle sprain at the Frenchtown Invitational mid-season and hasn’t played at all until Florence’s first game where she played a limited amount. Instead, freshman pitchers Kailee Kovatch and Kasidy Yeoman have taken on the job of pitching. With veteran catcher Natalie Dulac also nursing some injuries as well as Rilee Mangun, the younger players have had to step up. As the season progressed, they have done just that.
In their opening game of the divisional tournament, Florence took on Eureka with Kovatch pitching. Florence played a solid game with only one error and six hits in the 13-8 win. Dani Zahn had two hits including a double and hit three runners in. Dulac had a double and an RBI. Yeoman and Mackenzie Little each had RBIs, and Emily Kinnaman had two RBIs.
Saturday morning, the Lady Falcons took on MAC (Mission, Arlee, Charlo) in the undefeated game. Florence lost to MAC in their last home game and so they wanted to win even more. With Yeoman pitching, she allowed no hits until the fifth inning when MAC scored four runs int the 14-4 win for Florence. Yeoman also had three hits and a double. Zahn also had a double, three hits, and four RBIS. Little had three RBIs and Mangun had two RBIs in the win.
Because the weather was getting worse, the tournament was shortened to a single elimination championship so only one championship game was played instead of two. Perennial rivals, Florence and Loyola were both undefeated heading into the game.
Loyola jumped out to an early lead with one run in the first inning. Florence tied and then took the lead in the fourth inning and built upon that in the sixth inning. However, the Breakers came back to score three runs in the final inning and take the game, 6-5. Yeoman was the losing pitcher. Kolbi Wood had two hits as did Little. Yeoman, Dulac, and Danara Greer each had one hit. Yeoman Zahn, Dulac and Jaidyn Larson each had an RBI.
Florence will begin their defense of their state title on Thursday, May 23, at 2 p.m. They will play Conrad/Choteau, the No. 3 Seed from the East. Other teams playing in the tournament are Huntley Project, Manhattan, Shepherd, Cut Bank, and Plains/Hot Springs. (Just a side note, former Stevensville softball standout Michele Hunter Bangen is the Plains/Hot Springs coach.)
Because of the inclement weather this weekend, the Southwest A Divisional softball tournament was not held. The seeding for the state tournament was determined by the final regular season standings. Frenchtown was first, Hamilton second and Stevensville third in those standings. Although Corvallis won their final game over Dillon, 10-1, it was not enough to move ahead of Stevensville.
The State A Softball tournament will be held in Polson and will start on Thursday. Hamilton will play the No. 3 seed from the Northwest A at 11 a.m. Stevensville will play the No. 2 seed from the Northwest at 1 p.m.