Joey Roberts

Joey Roberts congratulates Kenna Thomas after she hit a home run last year at the state Class A tournament in Polson. Pending school board approval, Roberts will take over the reins of Belgrade's softball program.

Pending school board approval at the March meeting, Joey Roberts will be the new head coach of Belgrade’s softball team.

Roberts replaces Andrea Folkman, who resigned earlier in the week after one season at the helm. Belgrade went 23-0 a year ago en route to winning a third consecutive Class A championship.

“Bringing Joey on seemed to be the right thing. He was Andrea’s right-hand man last year. Really worked hard in the program,” Belgrade Activities Director Rick Phillips said. “He puts a lot of time and energy into it and he was certainly anxious to get that opportunity to be a head coach. Just seemed like it was the perfect opportunity just to promote from within.”

Folkman’s husband recently finished his degree and was hired for a job in Utah. Folkman had expected to coach this season, Phillips said, but the couple recently sold their home.

“Andrea was hoping to get through the year and it would take a while to sell their house, and she’d be able to make it through the season,” Phillips explained. “But the house sold quickly, so now they’re closing three days into the softball season … things just went a lot quicker for them than what she was expecting.”

Roberts has served as an assistant coach the past three years, first under Mike Neubauer and then last year under Folkman. He’s excited about guiding the program into a new chapter as Belgrade begins its first season as a Class AA program in 2020.

“I feel ecstatic about it. This is my fourth year with the program and it’s a goal I’ve had since the very beginning,” Roberts said. “I’m really excited about the group of girls and coaches that we have and the way that Belgrade softball as a whole is trending.”

Belgrade was one of the top Class A programs in the state over the past decade, winning three state championships, finishing as the runner up four times, and placing third twice.

Over the past three years, Belgrade has lost just three games — all to AA competition. The 2017 team boasted a 22-1 record en route to winning the program’s first-ever state title, while the 2018 squad belted a state record 53 home runs en route to finishing with a 23-2 mark.

While the competition will be stiffer in Class AA, Roberts noted the expectations remain the same.

“We have a pretty high standard and set the bar high, and we expect to strive for that high standard,” he said. “Winning three state championships in a row in A is a pretty impressive accomplishment for our girls, coaching staff and program as a whole, but I don’t see any reason why we can’t go in and be very competitive this year.”

Phillips noted the school is currently advertising for the vacant assistant position. But Belgrade’s other three coaches from a year ago are all expected to return.

“I can’t say enough about just the dedication, commitment and loyalty of Eric Tomasetti, Steve Eaton and Meagan Halvorson. They’re sticking around,” Roberts said. “I couldn’t be more fortunate to have such outstanding hard working people with me, and makes me feel a lot more confident stepping into this year.”

Preseason practices begin March 9 and Belgrade is slated to open the season March 28 at a tournament in Great Falls.

“It’s very exciting. I’m very excited about it,” said Roberts. “Looking forward to this season and hopefully many more to come.”