Things didn't look good.
The 8-10 year old All-Star softball team from Butte was one win away from capturing the State Championship, yet they trailed an equally determined Anaconda squad by eight runs.
All wasn't lost. Anaconda would have to be beat Butte twice to claim the title. But it never got to that second game.
It was just the second inning and against a team they’d beaten 17-2 just a day before, Butte slowly began to bounce back.
Perhaps it was the 6 a.m. practices the team had throughout the year.
Maybe it was the heart and passion the coaches and parents said they saw pour out of the girls every time they stepped onto the field.
It could have even been Journey, a 1980's rock band which produced the song "Don't stop believing." The girls from Butte seemed to have adopted that song as their theme.
Whatever it was, the team was able to storm back to win the game in extra innings, 13-11.
“It was stressful, exciting, but I knew the girls would pull it off,” head coach Krystan Doherty said. “They’re tough players and their heart was there the whole game.”
The team brought home the District 2 champions banner as well as the one proclaiming it as the best team in Montana. The players each received a medal to wear proudly and cherish forever.
But the icing on the cake was delivered by Butte's Fire Company No. 1, which paraded the city's latest state champions around town. The girls piled into the ladder truck, with the entire group fitting inside the bucket as a team. Amidst the smiles, the waving to passers by and raised No. 1 fingers, was the pride that the town has come to expect.
A fun moment for both the players and the parents, a convoy of cars followed the truck as it slowly made its way down the road. Honking and yelling, smiles were everywhere on the breezy and warm afternoon weather.
The ride lasted for about 15 minutes — and a lifetime.
Brityn Stewart, one of the players on the team, called it “scary but fun at the same time.” It was also her first time riding on a fire truck.
The parents were quick to gush about just how incredible the season was. Seeing how much the team and their families cared about each other wasn’t very difficult and the coaches repeatedly expressed just how fun they were to be around.
“It’s so rewarding to be able to coach these girls,” Doherty said. “I’ve always had a passion for softball and it was great to be in it, great to be their coach.”
Going undefeated as Butte did on its way to the title was certainly no simple task but through their seven postseason games, they found a way to win. And keep winning.
The squad was made up of Stewart, Jaycee Cleveland, Ashlinn Mullaney, Madisyn Swanson, Kaelyn Saari, Natalie Lynch, Gracie Ferriter, Kamber Leary, Bryli Pressler, Aili McClafferty, Dacelyn LaFond, Ally Godbout.
Doherty was assisted by Jason McClafferty and Josh Cleveland.
When asked about her favorite moments of the year Doherty — a former Butte Central prep athlete — was quick to answer.
“The girls' excitement was incredible,” Doherty said. “Just how proud they were of themselves.”
For Stewart, her favorite parts of the year were batting and fielding.
As for the championship?
“It was exciting,” she said. “We all ran together after we won.”
There seems to be quite the future in store for the softball programs in Butte. If all goes to plan, the next step for the squad is to eventually compete for a chance to represent Montana at the Little League Softball World Series.
That’s for girls aged 11-12 so for some of this group, the chance to do that could be coming sooner rather than later. Right now, however, they’ll enjoy the impressive feat of winning a state championship and the ride through town they got as victors.
The players' future is about as bright as the flashing lights of the fire truck as it cruised through Butte full of happy players and coaches, and flanked by proud parents.