In the bottom of the fifth inning of Hamilton's eventual 6-0 win against Loyola Sacred Heart, Broncs skipper Dave Kearns called out to his shortstop Mikayln Brickley after executing the front end of a double play.
"We'll forgive you on the drop earlier," Kearns said, chuckling at his tongue-in-cheek comment.
The Hamilton coach was referring to an all-out-effort try from Brickley an inning earlier that sent the shortstop ranging far into foul ground at the Missoula field and diving for a ball she had no business being close to.
Brickley, competing with the chainlink fence on the third base side, didn't catch it — the ball appeared to pop out of her glove when she hit the ground — but the hustle was outstanding.
"All of them played well, they had a different look in their eye today, but Mikayln was something else. She almost ran through a fence over here," Kearns said. "...Honestly, I'm happy to have her out here healthy. When she's out here, she's a hoot, she keeps everybody loose."
Coach Kearns was referring to an injury Brickley has been dealing with for several years that has kept the junior from playing travel softball in the summer the past two years. Brickley has something called Accessory Navicular. It essentially means she has an extra piece of bone in each of her feet that can cause some serious pain.
She had surgery to deal with it three seasons ago in one foot and another two years ago, but doctors had to go back in and take out a titanium screw at the end of last season — a year that ended with the Broncs finishing second at the Class A state softball tournament.
"I wasn't even able to hit the championship game because I couldn't walk," said Brickley, who played first base most of last season to alleviate having to range defensively. "I didn't know if I was going to get to (play softball) after all those surgeries."
Hence the full-tilt grit she showed against Loyola.
And moving on defense was no problem for Brickley Tuesday. Along with the 6-3 double play after a Loyola line out, Brickley had six total putouts.
That doesn't even include the careening into foul territory.
"That play she (almost) made on the fence over here, she had it, she had it right til the end and she's hitting the fence at the same time. She's impressive," said Loyola coach Brian Bessette of Brickley.
Bessette was also impressed with Brickley's bat. Hamilton's No. 3 hitter was 2 for 2 at the plate, and she had an RBI triple in the Broncs' four-run second inning. She added a double and scored the game's first run in the top of the first.
After two innings, the Broncs led 5-1.
"She's a tough out for sure. I wasn't sure where to pitch (Brickley), honestly," Bessette said.
That was about all the trouble Loyola pitcher Kayla Hickethier had, though. The Breakers senior allowed just five hits and and none of Hamilton's six runs were earned on Tuesday. She struck out three and twice got out of a bases loaded jam with Hamilton's cleanup hitter, Jorden Taggart, at the dish.
In Taggart's defense, she hit the ball hard twice in both situations, but each time the shot was directly at Loyola center fielder Ashton Libel who made the play.
Taggart also got the last laugh. The senior threw a complete-game shutout in the pitching circle while striking out nine Breakers in seven innings.
"She's just doing her thing — that's Jorden Taggart," coach Kearns said of his pitcher who threw 131 pitches (85 for strikes).
With the win, the Broncs improved to 6-2 overall. The Breakers fell to 3-6 and have dropped six in a row.
Still, coach Bessette has seen positives on a team that certainly looks the part of a contender but has run into a bit of a slump.
"I struggle losing six in a row, it bugs the competitor in me," Bessette said. "(But) I'm proud of the way we bounced back after the first couple innings. ... We bounced back, we played solid after that and we did have a lot of base runners, we just couldn't find a way to get them in."
Loyola, as well as Hamilton, have plenty of chances to rack up wins on Friday and Saturday as both squads are set to take part in the 16-team Frenchtown Invitational. The two squads will be joined by each school in the Bitterroot valley as well as teams from the Northwest A and Central A conferences.
A full schedule for the tournament is available at: https://www.nwmtaconference.org
Correction: A previous version of this story that ran in print misspelled Mikayln Brickley's first name.