Four teams punched their tickets to next weekend's AA softball tournaments as the playoffs started around the state, Thursday afternoon.
All four series' were best-of-three, but each one ended in a sweep with Great Falls High sweeping Billings Skyview for their berth, Missoula Big Sky took out Flathead in two games, Helena High rolled past Sentinel, and Billings West knocked off Bozeman.
Great Falls sweeps Skyview
At Great Falls, the host Bison used a six-run third inning to erase a 3-0 lead, then held off the Falcons for a 6-5 win in Game 1.
Skyview had scored three times in the third, but Great Falls answered in the bottom of the inning with all the runs they needed.
The Falcons tallied twice in the fifth, but were held scoreless over the final two innings.
Marina LaRocque pitched all seven innings for Great Falls in the win, while at the plate, Caitlyn Konesky and Bailey Durnell each hit a three-run home run in the third.
Great Falls then slugged their way to a rout in the nightcap, pounding out 24 hits on the way to a 20-8 win in five innings for the sweep.
The Bison scored four in the first, then nine in teh second to build a 13-2 lead after two innings.
Hannah Schafer and and Tierney Winholz each had three RBIs to lead Great Falls, while pitcher Marina LaRocque earned her second win of the day, and had four RBIs and a home run at the plate.
Bri Guse belted two home runs and had four RBIs in the loss for Skyview.
Terra Gilchrist leads Helena past Sentinel
At Helena, Terra Gilchrist dominated Sentinel in both games of their playoff series, pitching two complete games to lead Helena to 5-0 and 13-0 wins, and to the AA tournament.
Gilchrist gave up just two hits in each game, walked just two, and finished with 11 strikeout in 12 innings.
In game one, Helena scored four times in the third, the only runs Gilchrist needed.
Anna Fischer led the Helena offense with a two-run single in the frame.
In game two, Helena scored six times in the third, then seven times in the fifth for a mercy-rule win, and the sweep.
Helena belted three home runs in the game, hit by Ashley Nash, Anna Fischer and Taryn Holland.
Emma Meredith added two hits and two RBIs at the plate for Helena.
Brittany Delridge had two of Sentinel's four hits on the day, including a double in Game 2.
Defending champs West stop Bozeman
At Billings, the defending champions, Billings West, used strong pitchingi and timely hitting to sweep Bozeman, 8-6, 7-2, and earn their way into the Eastern AA bracket.
West trailed 4-3 heading to the bottom of the fifth after Bozeman struck for four runs in the top of the inning.
But the Golden Bears responded by scoring five times in the bottom of the fifth to make it 8-4.
The Hawks tallied twice in the sixth, but could get no closer.
Lexi Mayhood and Kylee Koch each had a home run for West in the opener, while Taylor Martin had a solo home run for Bozeman.
Ashley Davis was the winning pitcher for West.
In Game 2, West rode the arm of Lexi Mayhood to a sweep.
Mayhood held the Hawks to just three hits over seven innings, while the offense gave her all the runs she needed in the first.
West tallied three times in the first, then added four more runs over the next three innings to take a 7-0 lead.
Bailey Scott led West at the plate in Game 2, hitting two doubles and driving in two runs.
Pitching carries Big Sky past Flathead
At Missoula, Big Sky used strong pitching in both games to shutdown Flathead in 6-1 and 4-2 wins, and punch its ticket to the state tourney.
Macey Newbary starred on the mound in the opener for the Eagles, holding Flathead to two hits over seven innings.
At the plate, Newbary helped her own cause by collecting two hits, including a home run, and driving in three runs.
Kendall Mooney added a solo shot for the Eagles.
In game two, Kendall Rauk took her town on the mound and picked up where Newbary left off.
Rauk allowed five hits over her seven innings, helping clinch the sweep.
Newbary connected for another home run in Game 2, while Jaime Schafer and had two-run triple.