High Five

Belgrade’s Kenna Thomas, right, exchanges a high-five with Olivia Cook after scoring a run in the State A championship game against Polson in May. The duo are among five Panthers who will compete in the Veterans Memorial Softball Classic.

Five members of Belgrade’s three-time state champion softball team will compete in the 6th Annual Veterans Memorial Softball Classic this weekend.

The two-day event, held at the Belgrade Softball Complex, not only honors Montana veterans, but features five teams named after each branch of the military and nearly a dozen games.

Action begins Friday with the opening ceremony at 1:30 followed by games at 2:30 p.m. Saturday’s championship game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

More than 60 of the state’s top prep softball players are participating, and tournament organizer James Matter Jr. touted this year’s talent pool.

Elgas Pitches

Belgrade’s Erin Elgas delivers a pitch during the State A tournament in May.

“I’m always amazed at the talent that these girls have and that they bring to the tournament,” he said. “Looking at the stats when we were selecting rosters, almost half of the girls that RSVP’d had batting averages over .500. That to me just seems incredible. I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like that before, so it just continues to amaze me the type of talent that these girls have that are willing to come out and play in this.”

Representing Belgrade will be Olivia Cook, Haylee Curry, Erin Elgas, Kenna Thomas and Maddie Tomasetti. The quintet helped the Panthers to an unbeaten season and a third consecutive Class A championship this past spring.

Cook, Curry and Elgas are graduated seniors who will be playing at the collegiate level, while Thomas and Tomasetti were sophomores in 2019.

“We’re always excited to have the Belgrade girls, and sometimes a little disappointed that we can’t have more. That Belgrade team has a great pool of talent,” said Matter Jr. “Three in a row, three-peat championship — always excited to have the Belgrade girls come out.”

Elgas posted a 17-0 record in the circle this past season while compiling 100 strike outs and a 1.25 ERA. She earned All-State honors along with Cook, who boasted a .464 batting average while belting nine homers and knocking in 37 runs.

Tomasetti was also an All-State selection, while Thomas earned first team all-conference honors. Curry, who was an honorable mention selection, was a late addition to the tournament after another player withdrew.

Other notable players include Huntley Project pitcher Addy Hultgren, who will compete on the Army team along with Cook and Elgas. Hultgren led the Red Devils to the B/C title in May at the Belgrade Softball Complex.

Hultgren’s teammate, Sara Sumner, will compete for the Air Force.

Thomas and Tomasetti will play for the Marines, while Curry filled the vacant hole on the Air Force.

Put Out

Belgrade first baseman Maddie Tomasetti fields a throw during the State A championship game against Polson in May.

“There was a little bit of shuffling of the rosters. We had a couple girls pull out,” said Matter Jr. “So we’ve had a couple late additions.”

Anna Toon, who won the Montana Gatorade Player of the Year award after guiding Great Falls to a second consecutive AA championship, did not accept an invitation to play.

“We didn’t hear from Anna. A little disappointing,” said Matter Jr. “But, especially these seniors, some of them have to report to school. That’s one of the difficulties that we’ve had in years past is girls that have to report to school. Sometimes it (the tournament) just runs into that school schedule and they can’t make it, so I guess that’s what I’m kind of assuming what may have happened.”

On the coaching side, Manhattan’s Randy Cygan will helm the Army. Cygan guided the Tigers, a second-year program, to the State B/C tournament this past season.

“I think Randy’s shown just in two years in his role as head coach out there at Manhattan where he’s brought that program to how they competed at the state tournament this year,” said Matter Jr. “We’re excited to have Randy out and excited to see what he can do at the classic.”

There will be four games Friday followed by a catered dinner and home run derby beginning at 7 p.m. Matter Jr. noted the derby is full and plans to use two fields in order to speed things up. The pop-to-pop and base running contests will be held Saturday morning.

Games might be available online as Matter Jr. has been looking at Panther Live to steam the contests on YouTube.

“We’ve been working with the school to try and get the games on Field 1 on a live broadcast on the Panther Live YouTube channel. We think that’s going to be a go,” said Matter Jr. “Any of the games on Field 1 may be live broadcast. We don’t have that completely written in stone yet, but that’s something special we’re working on.”

6th Annual Veterans Memorial Softball Classic

(Belgrade Softball Complex, Aug. 2-3)

Friday’s schedule

2:30 - Air Force vs. Army (Field 1)

2:30 - Navy vs. Marines (Field 3)

4:30 - Winner 1 vs. Coast Guard (Field 1)

4:30 - Loser 1 vs. Loser 2 (Field 3)

6 - Dinner

7 - Home Run Derby

Saturday’s schedule

8 - Game 5 (Field 1)

10 - Game 6 (Field 3)

10 - Game 7 (Field 1)

11:30 - Pop To Pop/ Base Running Contests (Field 1)

12:30 - Game 8 (Field 1)

2:30 - Game 9 (Field 1)

4-5:30 - Session Break

5:30 - Championship (Field 1)

7 - 2nd Championship (if necessary)

Rosters

Captain Matt Saltz Army Team

Kylee Pittman, Beaverhead County

Erin Elgas, Belgrade

Sage Vanterpool, Glacier

Kinzee Peterson, Havre

Raquel McAuliffe, Custer County

Samantha Bradeen, Libby

Kassidy Yeoman, Florence-Carlton

Olivia Cook, Belgrade

Danielle Zahn, Florence-Carlton

Taylor Huff, Butte

Hannah Fetters, Cut Bank

Addy Hultgren, Huntley Project

Head coach: Randy Cygan, Manhattan. Assistants: Jack Gabrian, Dennis Elgas.

2nd Lieutenant Robert McCormick Air Force Team

Jazmine Spotted Bear, Cut Bank

Nicole Ames, Helena Capital

Kaylanna Desjarlais, Polson

Sarah Bury, Helena Capital

Haylee Curry, Belgrade

Paige Noyes, Polson

Jenna Priddy, Helena Capital

Vanessa Walsh, Helena

Sara Sumer, Huntley Project

Natalie Edgar, Hardin

Cassidy Venner, Billings Senior

Head coach: Jim Vaile, Browning. Assistants: Mistee Ridesatthedoor, Brian Harrell.

Lieutenant Jack Rittichier Coast Guard Team

Demi Uffelman, Hardin

Kya Egan, Colstrip

Lauren Archie, Helena Capital

Haileigh Davis, Shepherd

Whitney Durocher, Conrad-Choteau

Ashlynn Nixon, Corvallis

Allee Meyer, Glacier

Sophia Doyle, Hamilton

Trista Cowan, Columbia Falls

Kassidy Kinzie, Plains/Hot Springs

Ally McMillan, Helena Capital

Addy Labrum, Glacier

Head coach: Jack Foster, Flathead. Assistant: Shawna McDonald.

Seaman First Class Carl Charles Lapp Navy Team

Avery Escobar, Eureka

Jessica Morgan, Fergus

Kynzie Mohl, Glacier

Kasey Jones, Huntley Project

JJ Slater, Great Falls CMR

Jensen Keller, Billings Senior

Reagan Frantz, Park

Kayla Hickethier, Missoula Loyola

Grace Hardy, Missoula Sentinel

Taylor Garren, Frenchtown

Autumn Porter, Custer County

Sydned Jackson, Plain/Hot Springs

Head coach: Murrey Selk, Custer County. Assistant: Holly Selk.

Sergeant Trevor Johnson Marines Team

Macao Jackson, Ronan

Claire Bagnell, Frenchtown

Jorden Taggart, Hamilton

Azia Umphrey, MAC

Rachel Porter, Great Falls

Kelly Feller, Hardin

Maddie Tomasetti, Belgrade

Macy Mangold, Fergus

Mikalyn Brickley, Hamilton

Cassidy Moen, Frenchtown

Sarah Conway, Great Falls

Kenna Thomas, Belgrade

Head coach: Michelle Bangen, Plains/Hot Springs. Assistant: Dani Walker.