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Lil’ Lakers battle to 4th-place finish at state

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BUTTE — The Lil’ Lakers used the new-found confidence and hot swinging they hit upon in the Frenchtown tournament to finish fourth at the 2010 Montana ASA State Championship in Butte.

A week after finishing second in Frenchtown, the Polson 10U team went 3-2 over the four-day tournament in Butte this weekend to finish fourth. 

Polson manager Scott Renalt said his team started hitting at the Frenchtown tournament, but more importantly, they gained the confidence that they could play with any team. 

“The girls really came together at the Frenchtown tournament and that carried over this week...They never gave up and they expected to win every time they stepped on the field,” Renault said.

It wasn’t only one or two of the Lil’ Lakers doing the damage at the state tournament, Renault said his entire roster, from the leadoff hitter to the number nine hitter, was hitting the ball, and if they weren’t hitting they were getting on base and running. 

“Every girl contributed. They played their butts off,” Renault said.

The Lil’ Lakers opened the tournament with a 30-0 win against Anaconda. Renault said after starting out slow the girls got things rolling in the third inning, an inning where the Lil’ Lakers scored 25 times.

“The girls were just hitting the ball everywhere,” Renault said, describing the offensive onslaught in the third.

The Lil’ Lakers followed up the shutout of Anaconda with a 9-5 win over the Billings Force Friday night. They were sent to the loser bracket with a loss to the Helena Thunder Saturday morning. 

The Lil’ Lakers responded to their first loss of the tournament by beating the Butte Magic 5-4 in a thrilling game that ended on a play at the plate. 

With the tying run on third base and two outs in the seventh, a pitch got past Laker catcher Lauren Lefthand, Lefthand hustled to get the ball and get it back to pitcher Haley Fyant to preserve the one-run victory.

On Sunday, the Lil’ Lakers were up 7-2 on the Great Falls Select, but “then the wheels fell off,” Renault said. They exited the tournament with a 14-7 loss. Renault said his team, who were playing banged up, looked tired in the final game.

Lefthand and Camas Renault played through injury the entire tournament and earned his “Grit Award.”

Throughout the season, the Lil’ Lakers were ask to play positions they weren’t used to. Renault said they always did what was asked of them, exceeding his and his coaches, Patrick Lefthand and Shawn Fryberger,  expectations.

First baseman Hannah Fryberger, Camas, Fyant and Lefthand were constants for the Lil’ Lakers’ offense the entire season and they had a strong state tournament, but they also got a lot of help.

Renalt said that second baseman Mikala Croft was hot at the Frenchtown tournament and that carried over to the state tournament.

“Mikala Croft really jumped up for us and that really pushed us over the edge. She found her bat at the right time,” Renault said.

The Lil’ Lakers also got a lot of production from center fielder Breyland Coles and third baseman Laurel Bitterman.

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