By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – Two lines of weary, dust-covered players high-five each other following the championship game of the Big Sky Co-ed Softball League end-of-season tournament on the afternoon of Aug. 29. The LPC Golden Goats have just triumphed over Milkies Big Dogs to win the tournament and wrap up the league’s summer 2021 season.
After 11 weeks of tough play throughout the season, 13 of the league’s 15 teams competed in the post-season double-elimination weekend tournament on Aug. 28 and 29.
The tournament culminated in dramatic fashion. Since the Big Dogs fought their way through the losers’ side of the bracket, they had to beat the Goats twice to bring home the hardware, but after besting the Goats in the first game 14-13, they would fall short of an upset in the final matchup. The Goats scored 12 runs to the Big Dogs’ 6, marking the fifth consecutive tournament win for LPC.
Throughout the tournament weekend, games were fiercely competitive engaging fans to cheer and boo umpires, players, scorekeepers, everyone, as they saw fit. Some fans noted that this season could have been the first that a team came from the loser’s bracket to win the championship.
League organizers agreed that this year was especially competitive.
“For me, every season is the best season yet,” wrote Jodi Daily, vice-chair of the BSCO Softball Advisory Committee, in an email to EBS. “It is so much fun to watch the teams grow together and the individual players improve year after year! Competition was tough this year and there were so many upsets!”
Regular season play wrapped up on Aug. 25 when the Hillbilly Huckers won the league’s championship game. In a repeat of last year’s matchup, the Huckers faced off against the Goats, besting the LPC team once again, this time 18-17.
Huckers manager Lee Horning, who has been involved with the Big Sky Co-ed Softball League since 2006, reflected on the improvements he’s seen in the league.
“Every year there seems to be more and more teams that are at the top so it’s getting tougher,” Horning wrote in an email to EBS. “We did lose one regular season game by one run to Milkies which is another good team.”
Horning said it took a total team effort to come back from a large deficit in the fifth inning of their game against the Goats.
“[The Goats] played well the whole game and made great defensive plays and kept us in single digits for a long time,” Horning told EBS. “It took a pretty good comeback at the end to pull that one out.”
Both the regular season championship game and the post-season tournament were marked by an elevated level of play and some intense innings.
Daily offered her thanks to the rest of the Advisory Council that makes this league possible. “Queen Jean, Dave Schwalbe and Whitney McKenzie put a ton of time into making the league operate smoothly,” Daily said. “They have worked so hard to evolve the league as our town grows and changes.”
The local softball league remains a key community centering point since its official inception in 2000, giving locals a chance to unwind with friends. The continued efforts of the Big Sky Community Organization, which operates the league, and BSCO Program Manager Mackenzie Johnson put in long hours to benefit this community rallying point.
“I think as town gets busier in the summer the softball league gives us a little getaway that is still just ours,” Daily said. “The people that work so hard to give tourists these amazing experiences in our town get to come relax and just turn off.”