With the wind howling in her face, Ali Williams howled back, firing 60-mile-per-hour fastballs that stumped almost each and every batter. In a matter of two softball games totaling 10 innings last week, her dominance transcended the elements, even a brief hailstorm, as Glacier’s senior ace notched 24 strikeouts, including nine in a row at one point. As if that wasn’t enough, she punctuated her final regular-season home game with a blast that sounded more like a firework than a hit as it sailed an estimated 380 feet. Not bad for her 40th career homer.
One of the all-time great softball players from Montana is going out with a bang alongside a talented team of tight-knit players eager to defend their Class AA championship.
Williams and the Wolfpack (16-5 overall, 10-2 in conference) are rolling into the postseason, winners of nine straight and the No. 2 seed from Western AA. The team will host a playoff game at Kidsports Complex on Thursday, May 19, in a best-of-three series starting at noon. Glacier plays Missoula Hellgate (3-18, 2-10).
Flathead (6-14, 2-10) will travel to Helena Capital (11-9, 8-4) this week.
The winners of the playoff games advance to the Class AA state tournament in Kalispell, May 26-28 at Conrad Complex.
Glacier head coach Andy Fors said he is eager to host a playoff game instead of his team earning an automatic bye on the journey to defending last year’s championship.
After all, when momentum is red-hot, no sense slowing down.
Last week’s regular-season finale against Flathead showed just how powerful the defending champs can be when they’re firing on all cylinders.
Behind Williams’ dominating performance, the Pack bats led the offensive barrage as Glacier won 16-1 and 17-0 in the doubleheader. Eight different Glacier players hit homeruns.
“We’ve focused on trying to prepare for the postseason, trying to get momentum offensively and boy they sure did that today,” Fors said.
This season Williams is leading the offensive attack while performing masterfully in the circle. Her batting average is .444 with 10 homeruns, second most in the state. Her 18 RBI also leads Glacier, followed by Erin McHugh and Anna Schrade, who both have 12.
As a team, Glacier has the second most runs scored (131) behind first-place Missoula Big Sky (151).
“Looking back on what the season has been like, there’s a ton of resiliency in this group,” Fors said. “We had some struggles early. We had some tough showings offensively and we had some losses that we didn’t anticipate. For them to stick with it and be in the position we’re in now, they’ve showed a bunch of grit and a lot of heart. I’m proud of them and anxious for the next couple weeks.”
Glacier and Big Sky squared off in last year’s title game with the Pack claiming its first championship in program history, 6-3.
Similar to last year, Glacier boasts a well-rounded squad of athletes. But front and center stands Williams, who is finishing up her final prep season with a remarkable level of success. On May 10, Williams notched her second perfect game of the year, striking out 20 batters with only 77 pitches in seven innings against Butte. Williams allowed only one ball into play, a ground-out in the fourth inning. The perfect game was her second this season and sixth no-hitter.
The Carroll College recruit now has 224 strikeouts in 117 innings this season. The next closest pitcher has 108. Her ERA is a miniscule 0.48.
“It’s all just been pretty amazing,” said Williams, who spent the entire offseason undergoing a rigorous workout regimen and practice schedule.
“I’m most proud of my team for everybody stepping up. It’s amazing knowing my teammates are here to back me up. It’s a great feeling. I think we’re definitely going into the postseason on a high note.”
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