This truly is Montana's team.
The Big Sky All-Stars' history-making run trough the Little League World Series ranks as one of the most incredible local sports stories of all-time, but even members of the Montana Grizzlies football squad way out west in Missoula have enjoyed the ride.
Sam Gratton, a one-time standout at Senior and now a wide receiver with the Griz, was a member of an all-star team from the Big Sky Little League back in the day, but that team got no further than the regional tournament in San Bernardino, Calif.
After a scrimmage Thursday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, Gratton beamed when talking about this year's group, which advanced to the championship game of the U.S. bracket with a 1-0 victory yesterday over the heavily favored team from Huntington Beach, Calif.
The game was won on Ben Askelson's walk-off homer in the bottom of the seventh.
"I didn't get a chance to watch last night's game against California, but it's so sweet. I watch them every chance I get. It's been hard through camp, but I'm so pumped. I think they're gonna do it."
Bryan Waldhauser, an All-Big Sky defensive tackle, said he doled out some ribbing to a few of his teammates from California after the boys from Billings knocked of Huntington Beach.
"We have California guys on the team, and we've been giving them a hard time about Montana kids playing a little baseball. It's an awesome thing for those kids. I just think it's a great thing for Montana to come together and support them. I hope they go all the way and win it."
Even head coach Robin Pflugrad, who is busy with a hectic fall camp schedule, has taken note, saying:
"I usually get home about 11 (p.m.), so all the news is done. But last night I was home and I happened to see the sports. It was awesome. It was really neat. I love to see it."
The Big Sky All-Stars have already elevated themselves to the status of state-wide heroes. And with the U.S. championship game still to play, they're not done yet.