HAMILTON -- The goal all year for the Anaconda softball team was to reach the state tournament in their home town.
Thanks to the heroics of sophomore catcher Hannah Schaefer, that goal was reached Saturday afternoon.
With the bases loaded and one out, Schaefer hit a bloop single just over the Stevensville shortstop's glove to score Kristy Hayden, giving the Copperheads a 4-3 walk-off win and a berth in next week's state tournament.
Hayden was mobbed at home plate as the Copperheads came running out of the dugout to celebrate the win, and the trip to state.
"I was just really happy," Schaefer said after the hit. "To get to go to state, especially in Anaconda, that means a lot. I'm just really excited."
Anaconda nearly didn't need the heroics of Schaefer in the seventh, when earlier in the game she hit a solo home run to dead center that bounced off the top of the wall to give the Copperheads a 3-2 lead.
"That was my first home run of the year," Schaefer said. "I thought that if it could have come at any time, I'm glad this was it."
The 'Heads held that slim lead until the top of the seventh, when Stevi put the lead-off hitter on following an infield single.
After a sacrifice bunt and a strikeout, the Copperheads appeared to have the game wrapped up, but a throwing error allowed the tying run to score, eventually putting the go-ahead run at third.
But Michaela Cortright struck out the next batter, firing up Anaconda heading into the bottom of the inning.
"I told them 'now it's time to figure out if you really want this'," Anaconda coach Dotsie Shafer said after the error in the seventh. "We needed to come together to win this game. These girls have worked really hard to get where we're at, but they seem to just pull it off."
Anaconda jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Kassandra Flores laced a two-run single to take the early lead.
An RBI single from Stevi's Bayleigh Ravenscroft in the second cut the lead in half, then a sacrifice fly in the fourth from Sam Hambrick tied the game at 2-2.
Stevi looked like it would take the lead in the fifth, loading the bases, but Cortright wiggled out of a bases loaded, one-out jam to keep the score tied.
Cortright was strong on the mound, tossing all seven innings, giving up two earned runs, and striking out 10 to earn the win.
Anaconda will now gear up for the state tournament in their hometown, and will enter as the No. 3 seed out of the Southwest after falling to Butte Central 2-1 in a seeding game later in the day.
"We didn't want to leave here not getting to play in our own state tournament," Shafer said. "That was a big thing for us to finish. It was big for these girls."
Anaconda reached the game against Stevi by routing Dillon 13-3 in their first game of the day.
Cortright led the charge at the plate for the 'Heads against Dillon, collecting three hits and three RBIs, while Kristy Hayden and Shea Forsberg each added two hits and two RBIs. Randee Jo Johnson drew four walks in the game, and at one point walked in five straight at-bats.
Andi Mavrinac starred on the mound for Anaconda against Dillon, scattering seven hits and striking out three.