BIG SKY –The last weekend of every August, the parking lot at the Big Sky Community Park fills to the brim, and the smell of grilled burgers and hot dogs greets participants in the Big Sky Coed Softball League’s year-end tournament, marking the last days of summer with two days of action-packed games, friendly competition and light-hearted heckling.
Heading into the second day of the double elimination tournament, it was hard to pick a favorite to win the trophy. The previous day the Yeti Dogs put on a hitting exhibition that gave the regular season champion Cinema Bears their first loss by mercy rule in the fifth inning.
On Sunday morning, Milkie’s Big Dogs lost a lopsided game against the returning tournament champions, the LPC Golden Goats, but bounced back and sent the Cinema Bears packing in their next game, giving them confidence that they could take some hardware home at the end of the day.
The LPC Golden Goats and the perennial powerhouse Hillbilly Huckers emerged as the last teams without a loss, facing off for a spot in the finals. It was a game for the ages. Led by shortstop Lee Horning, the Huckers went up 11-0 in the top of the first inning and were leading by as many as 13 runs during the game.
But the Goats started hitting consistently late in the game, chipping away at the lead down the stretch. Down 21-25 in the bottom of the seventh inning, shortstop Joe O’Connor hit a game-tying grand slam followed by a solo home run by left fielder Ryan Rothing to walk off and edge out their rivals in the nick of time.
The Huckers didn’t play like themselves in their next game against Milkie’s, who after a solid showing against the Huckers, had plenty of momentum going into the finals against the Goats. With solid defense, LPC managed to win the final game 16-8, becoming tournament champions for the third consecutive year.
“I’m proud of this team. Winning three in a row is not easy and we pulled it off. It was team effort all around.” said Charlie Gaillard, pitcher and coach for the Goats.
“All in all it was a great season. The new teams were a lot of fun and a great addition to the league. The saving grace was hiring ASA umps for the tourney,” said Queen Jean Palmer. “Congrats to the league champs Cinema Bears and champions of the world (as we know it) Golden Goats. Can’t wait ‘til next year!”