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Holbeck's triple keys Sentinel's 5-3 win as DeMars keeps Hellgate at bay

With three Class AA high schools in Missoula, prep sports fans in the Garden City are treated to a bevy of intracity classics throughout the school year. Possibly the most entertaining and intense rivalry of the bunch in recent years has occurred on the softball diamond when Hellgate faces Sentinel.

Between cold gusts of wind and the occasional hail storm, Sentinel earned a regular-season sweep of the Knights with a 5-3 Western AA win Tuesday afternoon at Sentinel field.

"It's those crosstown rivalries," said Spartans coach Brian Bessette, who watched Sentinel advance to 7-2 in the conference, 12-3 overall. "They're a very good team. They always play us tough and they get up for us, we get up for them. I think we bring out the best in each other."

Senior Erica DeMers, who transferred to Sentinel from Hellgate after her sophomore campaign, got the victory in a pitchers dual, holding her former teammates to four hits and a walk with seven strikeouts.

"Pitching against Hellgate makes me concentrate more," said DeMers, who improved to 3-1. "I guess Sentinel has become a home for me, so it's kind of like playing just another game. But I get a little more pumped up to face them of course."

The big blow for the Sentinel offense came off the bat of first baseman Katie Holbeck, after Hellgate hurler Molly Hays stymied the Spartans' bats for the first 3 2-3 innings. The senior broke a scoreless tie when she laced a two-out bases loaded triple over the head of right fielder Angela Waldvogel, staking the Spartans to a 3-0 lead.

"Molly had us off balance all game. She controlled us a the plate," Bessette said. "Katie had the one hit that kind of opened it up for us."

Hays allowed just five hits and fanned nine, but took the loss and dropped to 5-6.

Both Hellgate first baseman Maria McNeil and catcher Ellen Buchman went 2-for-3, collecting all the hits DeMers allowed.

While the second regular-season installment between the two teams didn't reach the fervor of their 13-inning encounter at Hellgate on April 18, this one was not without its share of high drama.

With DeMers and the Spartans seemingly in control with a 5-0 advantage in the top of the seventh, the Knights (4-5, 6-7) came alive. Hellgate scratched out two singles hits and a walk, while also taking advantage of a Sentinel error, to score three runs. But with two away and runners on second and third, DeMers regained composure and got Raynelle Dayton to pop out to shortstop, ending the rally and the game.

"We're starting to roll a little bit, but we still have some things to work out," Bessette said. "Like today, we didn't really play seven complete innings. That last inning we opened it up a little bit. So yeah, things are starting to roll, but the good thing is, we still have room to improve and we still have things to work on."

Hellgate 000 000 3 - 3 4 0

Sentinel 000 410 x - 5 5 2

Molly Hays and Ellen Buchman. Erica DeMers and Jane Purdy. W - DeMers (3-1). L - Hays (5-6)..

HELLGATE - Mandy Hays 0-4, Raenelle Dayton 0-4, Kari Harding 0-3, Mo. Hays 0-2, Buchman 2-3, Laura Vincent 0-3, Maria McNeil 2-3, Molly Westenberg 0-3, Angela Waldvogel 0-3.

SENTINEL - Jenn Foley 1-3, Brooke Evans 1-1, Purdy 0-2, Leah Madden 1-3, Stefani Hertz 1-3, Jessica Miles 0-3, Katie Holbeck 1-2, DeMers 0-2, Maddie Hoffman 0-2.

3B - Holbeck. RBIs. - Holbeck 3, Ma. Hays, Waldvogel, McNeil.

Michael Heinbach can be reached at 523-5265 or by e-mail at sportsdesk@missoulian.com.

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