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Falling reign

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In a rematch of the Class A state championship, the Polson Purple Rain lose two 16U championship games against Belgrade at the 2010 Montana ASA State Championship.

BUTTE — The Polson 16U softball couldn’t repeat their performance at the high school state championship and finished second at the 2010 Montana ASA State Championship in Butte Sunday.

The ASA championship game was a rematch of the Class A championship game this spring and with the two evenly-matched teams going head-to-head Sunday, Belgrade made fewer mistakes than Polson and were able to beat the Purple Rain twice Sunday to avenge their loss in the high school championship game. 

In the first championship game, the Wolfpack took advantage of Polson’s only error of the game on a hard-hit line drive to score the winning run with two outs in the final inning to force a second championship. 

In the second championship, the Wolfpack scored three of their runs in a 5-1 victory in the seventh inning after two Polson errors.

“It’s indicative when two good teams play each other. I’ve seen more good games lost rather than won,” Polson manager Larry Smith said. “It all comes down to who makes the first mistake and we broke first.”

The two best teams in the state – both teams went undefeated the first two days of the tournament and beat AA teams to get to the championship – are now 3-3 in the six games they have played each other this season.

“Belgrade had the better day. They were the better team on that day. I have to hand it to them, they did an excellent job,” Smith said.

The state championships should just be the start of a heated rivalry. The two teams are scheduled to play a nonconference game this spring, will be at the same invitational and in all likelihood meet up at some time in the state championship.

The Purple Rain went 3-0 Friday and Saturday to earn a spot in the undefeated game against Belgrade Sunday morning. The Purple Rain scored three runs in the the 10th to win 6-4 and earn a spot in the championship game. Makaliah Wilson started the inning on second base because of the international tiebreaker and scored on a passed ball. Riley Kenney drove in Ashley Johnson and Heidi Rausch with a double. Johnson went 2 for 4 with two RBIs.

In her first of three games on the mound Sunday, Shay Duford pitched all 10 innings to pick up the win. Duford also went 2 for 5 at the plate with two RBIs.

In the 4-3 loss to Belgrade in the first championship game, the Purple Rain outhit the Wolf Pack 12-8, but stranded eight base runners and had many other thrown out on the basepath.

“We kind of ran ourselves out of the game,” Smith said. Polson is an aggressive running team and Belgrade made them pay for their assertiveness on the basepaths with pinpoint accurate throws. “That’s our game. Ninety percent of the time we come out winners. They just made perfect throws,” Smith said.

Polson leadoff hitter Kodi Woods went 3 for 4 and Johnson, batting from the second spot, was 1 for 3 with a RBI. The table setters were strong the entire tournament. Woods finished with a .500 batting average and Johnson went .524.

The Purple Rain also got a lot of help from their eight and nine hitters in the first championship game. Kinley Pope and Rausch were both 2 for 3 and scored a run.

Duford had three strikeouts, walked three and scattered eight hits in her first loss of the tournament. 

Smith said losing such a close game on their only defensive miscue of the game was tough and may have carried over into the second championship. He said that Duford also showed signs of fatigue after pitching two earlier games. 

In the third inning, Belgrade took a 2-0 lead after Duford gave up her first home run of the week. In the bottom half of the inning, Woods drove in Wilson, who reached by a single, to answer back, but that was the end of Polson’s offense.  

Duford, who had to go against a new pitcher in every game Sunday, struck out one, didn’t issue a walk and only gave up eight hits and was also 2 for 3 at the plate.

“(Duford) was steady. She kept us in every game. All she needed was a little offense,” Smith said. He said she was smart enough to change her strategy in each game. “She moved the ball. She changed location and she changed her pitches enough to keep them off balance and keep us in the game,” Smith said.

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