Glacier Softball Wins State Title

Wolfpack takes first championship since 2015 with 19-7 win over Helena High

By Daniel Shepard for 406mtsports.com
Kalispell Glacier is the 2023 Montana Class AA State Softball Champions. | Brett Penner, 406mtsports.com

HELENA — Ella Farrell held the softball that was used to record the final out like her most prized possession.

“It’s going on my wall,” she said with a smile.

Farrell pitched all but one inning – 33 total – in Kalispell Glacier’s three-day, five-game journey toward being crowned 2023 Class AA State Champions on Saturday.

She threw 191 pitches on Saturday alone, adding three hits, a walk and two RBI at the plate in the title game, and was mobbed by her teammates when the final out of the Wolfpack’s 19-7 victory over Helena High found leather in the outfield.

“When that ball was flying out to Brooklyn [for the last out] – you feel your heart sink and you’re like, ‘wow, we really just did that,’” Farrell said.

Glacier is the Class AA state champion for the first time since 2015.

The Wolfpack reached the chipper by run-ruling Helena High on Friday night, but had to play the Bengals twice Saturday after they advanced out of the third-place matchup and won Saturday’s first game 2-0.

That made a winner-take-all contest necessary, where the Wolfpack prevailed.

“The challenge to [the players] all week was to play like it was the championship and they came through when they needed to,” Glacier head coach Abby Snipes said.

“There’s a line in our creed that says, ‘the pack always performs the mundanities of excellence. We’re champions because we do the things required of champions.’”

“That’s who they are.”

Kalispell Glacier junior Ella Farrell pitches during Saturday’s first championship game at the State AA Softball Tournament in Helena. | Brett Penner, 406mtsports.com

For Helena High, Team 38 (38th team in program history) was the best.

A season in which the Bengals broke the program’s single-season mark for victories ended deeper in the playoffs than any prior.

Helena High’s second-place trophy is the best in program history and the 2023 season is just the second time a Bengals team has brought hardware back from state (2017; third place).

“At the beginning of the year, we just wanted to play as many games together as we could,” senior catcher Kendall Klemp said. “We did just that – we played hard until the very end…

“We’re a very close group of people and we’re each other’s family. That’s what makes it hard to say goodbye, but we just always played for each other and together.”

Helena High pounded three home runs and piled up 18 hits in an 11-2 victory over Missoula Sentinel in the third-place game Saturday morning.

That meant, after being run-ruled by Glacier Friday night, the Bengals needed to beat the West’s No. 1 seed twice to finish the climb.

Faith Howard tossed a complete game shutout in Game 1, scattering four hits, and striking out five.

Helena High added two more home runs in Game 2 – the winner-take-all matchup – including Kalley May’s three-run blast that tied the game in the first. Glacier countered with five long balls to end the Bengals’ 20-win season one victory short of glory.

“I think they’re the definition of excellence – on and off the field,” Schulte said of his team. “It’s a great season for us, but in no way will it ever be the best thing that any one of these girls ever do, because they’re the kind of people that have great character and great grit…

“They showed it here this weekend.”

Glacier junior Emma Cooke mashed two home runs as she amassed four hits and five RBI in the title-clinching Game 2.

Senior Brooklyn Imperato matched Cooke’s home run output, hitting her first two of the season, and also finished with five RBI.

Imperato gave a little shrug to Snipes as she reached third base after hitting her second homer – a seventh-inning three-run shot that increased Glacier’s lead to 18-7.

“I was just like, ‘is this really happening?’” Imperato said post game. “I couldn’t even come back to reality – it was just crazy.”

Helena High led Game 2 5-3 entering the third inning.

Kalispell Glacier junior Emma Cooke crosses the plate after hitting her second home run of Saturday’s second championship game at the State AA Softball Tournament in Helena. | Brett Penner, 406mtsports.com

Cooke led off with a home run, seemingly opening the floodgates to a 16-run Glacier onslaught over the contest’s final five innings.

“The second we got in the dugout, we all were saying, ‘we need to get up. We got it,’” Cooke said. “We were all really confident and I think that really showed in the next inning – how confident we were.”

Snipes, who is a 2010 graduate of Glacier High School and played softball for the Wolfpack, was showered with green and blue glitter moments after Glacier’s win.

She was emotional when talking about her team, her alma mater, and adding another chapter to the tradition of Wolfpack softball.

“It’s a dream come true, right?” Snipes said. “To get to come back and give to the program and to see them rise up and continue the tradition — it’s awesome.”

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