The Columbia Falls Wildkats will be making their way to Frenchtown for the state tournament this weekend despite going 1-4 last week.
Losses to Frenchtown, Polson and Libby meant the Kats needed a win at home against rival Whitefish Saturday to secure a spot in the post season and the Kats delivered with a 17-1 romp of the Lady Bulldogs.
“We ended up being better than a lot of people thought we would be and we were able to make it to state,” head coach Dave Kehr said. “We are much better than we were at the beginning of the season and we might be able to take some teams by surprise.”
Led by Trista Cowan’s three-hit, 6 RBI performance, the Wildkats scored 10 first-inning runs and never looked back on their way to the blowout victory. Raychel Hoerner, Tori Briscoe and Ryley Kehr each went 3-3 with 2 RBIs in the victory while Graceann Sevesind batted in three runs for the Kats.
The Kats sent 14 batters to the plate in the first inning and scored eight runs before Whitefish could record the first out. Kaylee Ashe and Hoerner both reached base to open the inning before Cowan sent a pitch over the wall in left center to put the Kats up 3-0. A double by Sevesind and a single by Payne pushed the lead to 5-0 before a bases-loaded walk by Savvy Ellis brought in another run and Ashe was hit by a pitch to force in the seventh run.
Hoerner doubled to left to put the Kats up 8-0, a double by Cowan put the Kats up by nine and a single to left by Kehr gave Columbia Falls a 10-0 advantage.
The Kats scored three runs with two outs in the bottom of the second to push their lead to 14-0, after scoring one earlier in the inning on a ground ball by Ashe.
Singles by Briscoe and Ellis and a walk to Isabell Johnson set up an RBI single by Hoerner to put the Kats up 15-0 in the third. A fielder’s choice ball to third by Cowan and a bases-loaded walk by McKenna Rensel brought in the the final two runs of the constest for the Kats.
Whitefish did manage a run on a pair of hits in the top of the fifth inning, but it was not enough to keep the Kats from picking up the win via the mercy rule after five innings.
With the win, the Kats finished in a tie with Ronan for third place in Northwest A, but the Kats will advance to the state tournament as they held the tie-breaker by outscoring the Maidens in their two games this season.
The Kats will face Sidney in the first round of the Class A state tournament in Frenchtown Thursday. The Kats defeated Sidney 9-3 in their only matchup of the season at the Laverne Combo Tourney in Butte May 11.
With a win, the Kats would face Belgrade at 3 p.m. With a loss, the Kats would not play again until Friday at 11 a.m.