Helena High Walks Off Previously Unbeaten Glacier

Bengals sophomore scored game-winning run for victory against conference leading Wolfpack

By Micah Drew
The Glacier High School Wolfpack plays the Helena High School Bengals at the Kidsports Complex in Kalispell on May 28, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The unlikeliest of heroes came through in what may have been the biggest moment of the season to date on Saturday in Helena High’s 5-4 walk-off victory against previously unbeaten Kalispell Glacier.

Kamryn Klemp, younger sister of Bengals catcher Kendall Klemp, had, only minutes prior, scored the game-winning run in the junior-varsity game taking place at the same time as the varsity contest.

Kamryn watched as Glacier tied the varsity game at 4-4 in the seventh, and then as Makenna Campbell, Kylee Gardipee and Faith Howard reached in succession to begin the home half.

It didn’t matter that Kamryn only had four varsity plate appearances under her belt, she was then called upon to replicate that walk-off magic from the JV game.

Tied game. Bases juiced. Walk-off single. Celebration.

“I was pretty nervous, but I knew my teammates had my back,” Kamryn said, post game burger in hand. “We just came off the JV game, so I still had an adrenaline high. I was just ready for anything…

“I’m so excited right now. I can’t even [express it].”

“I was nervous, but I had a lot of confidence in her,” Kendall, a senior, said. “It was a very surreal moment.”

Two pitches before her heroics, Kamryn whistled a foul ball over the head of Makenna Campbell at third. The Bengals’ dugout, if only for a brief second, thought in that moment it had its game-winning hit.

Head coach Ryan Schulte knew right then it wasn’t far away.

“I just knew she was seeing [the ball],” Schulte said. “When she starts to hit the ball like that – and she was a little bit late on that one – I knew she was seeing it well and I felt like she had a great chance to hit the ball hard.”

Helena High, which entered play 7-1 in Western AA contests and 1.5 games behind league-leading Glacier, avenged a 6-4 loss on April 15 and staved off a Wolfpack squad that, after getting down 4-0 on Saturday, scored twice in third, again in the fourth and knotted the game in the seventh.

Kalispell Glacier junior Ella Farrell pitched all six-plus innings of the Wolfpack’s 5-4 walk-off loss to Helena High on Saturday. She struck out 10 and walked two. | Gary Marshall, BMGphotos.com

“I was proud of the way we responded, we just have to have a little more discipline on defense throughout the game and not put ourselves in that situation,” Glacier head coach Abby Connolly said.

“Our top of the order really did a great job of doing their job [in the seventh] – getting on base. Sometimes you just fall one pitch short, and I think that’s a little bit of what happened today. I think we’ll see [Helena High] later on this season at the state tournament.”

Glacier’s infielders overran a bunt in that decisive seventh inning, allowing Gardipee to reach base.

Howard’s roller to the pitcher one batter later was fielded cleanly, but the force play was not made at third, setting up a bases loaded situation with nobody out.

Glacier, a team known for its situational hitting in a 10-0 start to the season, put its first four batters on base in the seventh, tying the contest on a walk.

From there, Helena High’s Howard wiggled out of further damage by striking out two and inducing a pop up.

“The biggest part for me is the continual ability to battle, no matter the circumstances,” Schulte said of his team. “I think it shows their grit, I think it shows their resolve, and I’m super proud of them.”

In a game that could be a preview of a state tournament matchup, Howard maintained the same poise in the circle she’s shown all season.

A rocky first, in which the sophomore loaded the bases just to strike out a pair to escape, gave way to three strikeouts in the second.

Glacier’s Emma Cooke blasted a two-run home run in third, halving Helena High’s four-run lead, but Howard responded by wiggling out of a fourth-inning jam with the lead still intact.

She didn’t allow a base runner in the fifth or sixth, and while Howard couldn’t close it out in the top of the seventh, she left her team in a good spot for a walk-off.

Howard struck out 12 in her complete game victory.

“We have a great dynamic,” Kendall said. “I think the main thing is that she trusts the team to back her up. They got a couple hits in that seventh inning, but deep down, I think we both knew that, even if they put it in play, our defense would back her up.”

Kendall, Campbell, Gardipee, Maloree English and Kalley May all collected two hits for the Bengals as they racked up a dozen in the win.

Helena High, after beating Kalispell Flathead 10-3 to complete the Saturday sweep, improved to 14-1 on the season and 9-1 in Western AA contests.

Glacier beat Helena Capital on Saturday, advancing the Wolfpack to 10-1 in conference play. The Bengals are now just a half-game back in the league standings with four to play.

Kylee Gardipee homered and doubled for the Bengals, while Kalley May doubled twice and drove in three runs against the Bravettes.