HAMILTON — Only four teams remained on the final day of the State A softball tournament. Here is how those games played out.
Full scores and pairings from the 2022 State A softball tournament can be found here.
Frenchtown 7, Billings Central 4
Toni Beatty smashed a grand slam to centerfield in the top of the sixth inning and the Frenchtown Broncs rallied past Billings Central, 7-4, to win their first State A softball title since 2016.
Central scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take the first lead of the game. Mia Ralston-Gust hit an RBI-double to get things started, then a sacrifice fly from Lydia Todd and a two-RBI triple from Winter Johnson made it 4-0 Rams.
But in the sixth inning, the Broncs found their groove. Alexis Godin hit an RBI-single to get Frenchtown on the board. Then after the bases were loaded, Beatty was up to bat and sent one over the wall to give the Broncs the lead for good.
"It's kind of like a blur. It felt amazing and as soon as I made contact with it I was like, oh yeah, you can just tell when it's going over and I just knew it was gone," Beatty said. "And I got to first and I saw my first base coach and she had tears in her eyes and I instantly had tears of pure happiness."
Godin added a sac bunt in the seventh inning to make it 6-4, and a bases-loaded walk added one more insurance run for Frenchtown.
It capped a furious rally for the Broncs on the day. Frenchtown fell to Central 4-3 in the undefeated final and climbed their way back with a win over Polson, followed by a rematch win over Central in the championship game to force the second championship.
Pitcher Sadie Smith pitched complete games in all six of Frenchtown's contests at the tournament and threw over 400 pitches on Saturday alone. Smith struck out seven batters in the final game and allowed 12 hits.
The Broncs also avenged last year's second-place finish to Polson.
"After last year it was like, OK, we need to come back and we need to be better than last year and I think we did that," Smith said. "My teammates, my family, everyone is the biggest supporters I've ever had so it's a dream come true."
Central standout pitcher Peyton Whitehead was rested in the final game and freshman Gianna Haney handled pitching duties for the Rams to cap the tournament. The freshman was ready for the moment as Haney effectively shut down Frenchtown's hitters as she racked up seven strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings before Frenchtown's rally in the sixth. Whitehead came into the game after the Broncs took the lead and finished the game as Central's pitcher.
"Obviously it feels amazing anytime you win a state title," Frenchtown coach Eli Field said. "This is the first time we've ever fought our way back and won the if necessary game to do it. What a credit. That five-run inning we put together, that was senior-driven. Amazing.
"The model has to be play until they tell you you can't play anymore so we just kept playing, kept playing, kept playing. Two of those three games, we're down 3-0 to Polson, down 4-0 to (Central) and these kids find a way to come back. That is just unbelievable. They found a way."
Frenchtown 7, Billings Central 2
After working their way back with a win over Polson, Frenchtown's bats came alive in a rematch against Billings Central as the Broncs beat the Rams 7-2 to force a second championship on Saturday in Hamilton.
Frenchtown scored three runs in the sixth and seventh innings to pull away from the Rams to force the final possible game. Abby Faulhaber scored Cassidy Bagnell on an RBI-single in the first inning to get the Broncs started, then Carah Evans hit a grounder to the first baseman who couldn't field it in time before Evans was safe and drove in a run to start the sixth-inning outpour.
Next, Chole Long put down a bunt that wasn't fielded cleanly to score another run, then Bagnell drove in one more to make it 4-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth. Brynn Bohrer added an RBI-single for Central to trim the deficit to 4-2, but that was as close as Central got.
Faulhaber, Evans and Carlie Habeck all drove in Frenchtown's runs in the seventh inning to seal the win. Winter Johnson had an RBI-single for Central in the first inning.
The two teams will play one more time on Saturday with the winner crowed Class A state softball champions. Frenchtown beat Polson 5-4 in the third-place game.
Billings Central 4, Frenchtown 3
It's every kid's dream.
Bases loaded. Full count. Two outs. Final inning. And a chance to win the game.
Peyton Whitehead did just that.
The senior for Billings Central hit a single to right field with the bases loaded — and the ball bounced over the right fielder's glove and rolled to the fence on the error — clearing the bases and giving Central the lead and eventual win, 4-3, on Saturday in Hamilton in the undefeated final between the two schools.
Central trailed the entire game up to that point against Frenchtown on the final day of the State A softball tournament. But after the Rams loaded the bases in the top of the seventh down 3-0, G.G. Hastings drew a walk which made trimmed the deficit to 3-1 Broncs.
Whitehead was next to bat after that, and her hit has Central one win away from the State A title.
Frenchtown started out fast as Toni Beatty hit a two-RBI single to make it 2-0 Broncs in the first inning. Carah Evans then added an RBI-double in the fourth inning to make it 3-0.
After those early struggles, Whitehead settled in on the mound and finished with seven strikeouts and allowed six hits and three walks.
Sadie Smith stuck out six batters on the mound for Frenchtown and allowed eight hits and two walks.
Frenchtown will play Polson in a loser-out game on Saturday. Polson defeated Columbia Falls 7-2 earlier on Saturday. Central will await the winner of Frenchtown-Polson at 1 p.m. with a second championship game scheduled for 3 p.m. if the Rams lose that 1 p.m. contest.