LAUREL — Pity the second Eastern A Divisional softball tournament.
It will have a difficult time matching the drama of the first one.
Billings Central rallied from a 5-0 deficit with 10 runs in the final two innings to beat Miles City 10-5 in the championship game of the inaugural Eastern A tournament on Friday afternoon.
In the pressure-packed third-place game — three teams advance to the Class A state tournament — Katie Williams raced home with the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning on a misplayed groundball to give host Laurel a 5-4 victory over Sidney.
The Class A state tournament is next week in Polson.
Central 10, Miles City 5
The top-seeded Rams were trailing 5-0 with only six outs remaining.
“It was disheartening. I didn’t think we’d get it done, I’ll be honest,” said junior center fielder Allison Walter. “I was thinking, ‘OK, we already made it to state. But it wouldn’t be the same.’ ”
Miles City built its lead with a bases-clearing triple to right field by Lauren Wolfe-Petroff in the third inning. The Cowgirls pitcher helped herself with two triples and also scored two runs.
“It was stressful,” added Ram catcher Addy Daubert. “We knew we were running out of time. I thought we still had a chance. We’re a good team. We just had to get our bats going.”
Crowding the plate a little more — “Everything was inside. We made the adjustments,” said Walter — Central pieced together four hits and three hit batters for five runs in the sixth inning. The big hit was a two-run double by Daubert to tie the game.
Wolfe-Petroff hit seven batters in the game.
“I was just looking for something to hit … to give us a chance to score,” Daubert said.
Rams pitcher Molly Day also helped herself with a two-RBI double in the inning. Day, a junior, struck out 11, including four of the last six batters she faced. Day also struck out the side in the third inning.
Skylar Rockwell’s double drove in Sam McNeely for the winning run in the seventh and Walter broke open the game with her second career grand slam. She took a 3-2 pitch deep to left field on the eighth pitch of the at-bat.
“I knew it was good. You just know when it feels right,” said Walter.
“This was a team effort,” Daubert added. “Everybody was pulling for each other. We knew we could win this game.”
Laurel 5, Sidney 4, 10 innings
Locomotives’ pitcher Brianne Jones was speaking for everyone when she said, “I’m tired.”
Her teammates pushed across two runs in the bottom of the 10th inning to earn the third and final Eastern A berth in the state tournament.
Both Jones and Sidney pitcher Lacee Giddens pitched all 10 innings. “That was the first time for me,” said Jones of going almost an extra half-game.
A year ago, with no tournament, Laurel would have already have qualified.
“Oh, yeah, there is definitely more pressure,” Jones said of the new format.
After Jones and Giddens pitched four scoreless innings, the teams traded runs to be tied 3-3 after six. That was followed by three more scoreless innings.
“We had to tighten our defense and not let anything get through,” said Williams. “It was scary. We 10-run ruled them both times during the season. They’re a good team and played well.”
The Eagles took a 4-3 lead in their half of the 10th when Holly Papineau scored on a grounder by Tudie Crosby. Papineau also had a two-RBI single for Sidney in the fifth inning.
With one out, Laurel’s Kylee Hergenrider, Williams and Hailey Spitzer hit consecutive singles with Hergenrider scoring on Spitzer’s hit. That left Williams standing on third.
“I was going to score no matter what,” said the senior. “I had to score.
“I knew Paige (Hodges) was going to do it. She had been doing it all day.”
Hodges, a sophomore, had hit four singles in her previous four at-bats. Her grounder got through the Sidney infield to score Williams with the game-winner.
Laurel advanced to the third-place game with a win over Glendive earlier in the day, while Sidney defeated Hardin.
“We knew we could do this,” Williams said. “We earned it.”