ST. IGNATIUS — With a 21-1 record this year and its only loss coming outside of conference, the St. Ignatius-Arlee-Charlo softball co-op hopes the third time's the charm after falling just short of winning the state title in each of the past two years.
"It's been great, this team has such a great bond and everyone's just there to back each other up, keeping everyone together," said senior Gabby Smith. "We've been practicing really hard and hopefully this year we’ll come and get a state title."
The third basemen knows that their success didn’t happen overnight.
"All the hours we put in, like we have open gyms and we play summer ball and I just think we know each other so well," said Smith. "We just know where everyone's gonna be, so it just helps knowing what our teammates are gonna do before they do it."
Teammate fellow senior Rheid Crawford is happy with where the team is, but is taking nothing for granted heading into the postseason. The Western B-C divisional tournament begins Thursday in Anaconda.
"I feel good. Yeah, I think I'm a little bit nervous," said Crawford. "You know, you never know what to expect, but I think we'll try our hardest and see what happens. But I'm thankful either way to even make it this far."
Crawford also knows the team they’ve built is special, with the three schools being rivals in all other sports.
"It's pretty crazy because I know in other sports we can be kind of competitive with each other," said Crawford with a laugh. "So it's kind of nice to come together and meet new people from new schools and I've made new friends so that's nice."
Senior Hayleigh Smith echoed Crawford and couldn’t be more grateful for the family culture they’ve fostered.
"That's been pretty special," she said. "Even with the three schools coming together, I haven't felt that I've had a family as close as this team which is pretty cool since we do have the co-op."
After outscoring opponents this year 284 to 73 and with a perfect conference record, Smith attributes it all to the dedication from every player on the team.
"Everybody's drive to make it to the next level, we never feel like we're done," she said. "And so just the work ethic that we all have and that we're willing to put in. I feel like sometimes there's one or two people that are willing to put in some work but for us it's all nine people in the field."
Now in his fourth year as head coach, Shane Reum knows he couldn’t be luckier to have the players he does.
"Just watching them work. They never cease to amaze me," said Reum. "There's always an amazing play, and truly it's not me. It's all them and I'm honored just to be a part of what they're doing."
Despite all their success this year the Lady Bulldogs are focused on staying in the moment.
"Right now we're just trying to focus on one game at a time," said Reum. "One pitch, one inning, one game."