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Purple Wave surge to 3rd place finish at state

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BUTTE — The young Polson Purple Wave finished third out of 22 teams in the 12U division at the 2010 Montana ASA State Championship in Butte Sunday.

Playing in the largest division at the four-day tournament and against bigger and older teams – only two Purple Wave players played in 12U last year – the Purple Wave went undefeated until the final day, when they lost 4-1 to eventual champions Kalispell Emeralds in the semifinals. 

“I felt like we were one of the best teams in the state and the girls came out and proved it,” Polson manager Kirk Murphy said, adding that bringing home the bronze hardware from the state tournament was a testament to the work the girls put in this summer. “The girls worked hard and got better every week. I’m thrilled with their effort, their commitment and their hard work.”

After going 3-0 Friday and Saturday, the Purple Wave played the Bitterroot Sparks early Sunday morning, a team that the Wave had played three times this summer and lost by a single run each time, including an extra-inning loss to Frenchtown just last week. 

The Purple Wave went into the final inning with a 3-2 lead, but gave up three runs in the top of the seventh. Murphy said instead of being resigned to losing another close game to the Sparks, his team “didn’t hang their heads, they didn’t quit.”

Shortstop Hannah Potter started the rally with a one-out single and made it a one-run game on a Skyla Krantz single. Kylie Murphy advanced Krantz with a single and both moved up a base on a passed ball. After a Wave strikeout, Taylor Brackey hit a hard shot down the third baseline. The third baseman was able to knock the ball down and tried to make a play at first, but Brackey beat out the throw. 

Once Kirk saw that the third baseman was going to throw to first, he sent Kylie home for the game-winning run. The throw to home beat Kylie, but the Sparks catcher couldn’t hold onto the ball after a collision while Kylie was sliding home to give the Purple Wave a 6-5 victory.

“It seemed in the other games, we never got the breaks. The ball never rolled our way, so when we were finally able to win a one-run game it was pretty exciting,” Murphy said.

In the semifinals against Kalispell, the Wave fell behind early – giving up two runs in the first and second inning. Trailing 4-0, the Wave couldn’t get their bats going to mount a comeback. They only had five hits in the 4-1 loss.

The loss set up a rematch with the Sparks to determine who would play the Emeralds in the championship. This time around, the Wave were no match for the Sparks and finished their season with a 12-8 loss.

Murphy said only using one starting pitcher at the tournament caught up with them against the Sparks. The Wave looked a little drained the second game against the Sparks. Murphy said this could’ve been because it was their third game of the hot day or the loss to the Emeralds could’ve taken something out of the Wave.

Wave catcher Sarah Rausch had a triple and a single. Kylie, second baseman Jade Newman and Natalie Slonaker each had two singles. 

When Kylie was fresh she was hard to hit. In a 7-3 victory over the Billings Havoc to open the tournament Friday, Murphy struck out 16 Havoc batters. She also had a two-run triple in the first inning. Rausch went 2 for 3 with a double and the single.

Later Friday, the Wave jumped on the Belgrade Wolfpack early and were up 8-0 after an inside-the-park grand slam by Rausch in the second inning. Rausch went 3 for 3 in the 10-7 victory. The Wave had 14 hits in the five-inning game. Kylie and Newman each had two singles.

With the early lead, Kylie was able to get some rest and was relieved by Marlee Congdon. Congdon picked up the win after striking out three in three innings of work.

Against the Bozeman Steelers, a team the Wave had never played before, it was the Steelers that got the early jump. The Steelers scored two runs in the top of the first, but their lead was short lived. The Wave scored seven runs in the bottom half of the inning, with all the runs crossing the plate with two outs.

Potter started the two-out rally with a single. Slonaker and Brackey doubled in the rally and Ashley Benson, Rausch and Congdon, all had singles in the rally. The Wave scored another seven runs in second inning en route to their 14-2, four-inning victory.

For the second game in a row, Rausch went 3 for 3. Slonaker, the Wave’s center fielder, went 2 for 2 with three RBIs. Kylie struck out nine.

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