MISSOULA — Carroll College sophomore pitcher Allison Williams and Montana freshman right-hander Tristin Achenbach didn't have to pitch against each other in Sunday's softball doubleheader between the two teams at Grizzly Field.

But they remembered each other.

Two of Montana's best high school hurlers had faced once before in the select softball season two summers ago. Both squads rode their respective aces to the championship where the pitching duel between Kalispell Glacier graduate Williams and Achenbach, formerly of Conrad before finishing school at Great Falls CMR, commenced.

Williams won the battle, hitting a home run off Montana's two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in the process.

"I was kind of a little peeved because she got the Gatorade over me, and they started chanting 'Gatorade' when I came to bat, and then I hit the home run," said a smiling Williams, who threw a complete-game shutout to give Carroll its first win, 1-0, against the Grizzlies.

Achenbach recalled Williams' long ball, too, but it was Williams' pitching performance in Game 1 that partially fueled the Griz freshman to a Game 2 win in the circle.

The three-time state champion pitcher, twice in Class B/C and once in Class AA, was perfect through four innings and finished with 11 K's in a five-inning effort that led to a 12-2 Montana win.

"There's always that competitiveness, but (Williams' start) just (gave me) a little bit of an edge to go out and do something cool," Achenbach said.

Throw in Williams' shutout, where she scattered seven hits against a Griz squad that reached the NCAA Regional Tournament last spring, and the two pitching performances tell an even greater tale than any nonconference, preseason box score could show.

Softball in Montana is moving up.

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"It's a state of one million people, so numbers can be lower in how many participate, but softball is really growing in this state," Griz interim head coach Melanie Meuchel said. 

Carroll and UM, two of the state's first collegiate softball teams, have had a lot to do with that growth. Prep players in the state can more easily envision playing after high school with the two college programs in their backyard.

Montana's high schoolers might even have a poster of Griz shortstop Delene Colburn hanging on their wall. The senior slugger went 4-for-4 in Sunday's finale, including a mammoth grand slam that gave the Griz a 10-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning. 

Now the Treasure State's prep softball players have two more to look up to, and they're a pair of Montana's native daughters: Achenbach and Williams. 

"We've had some pitchers come through in the last five years that have a good skill set and I think are competitive. ... So it's awesome to see them have the opportunity at the next level and opportunities where they're succeeding," said Meuchel, who embraced Carroll skipper Aaron Jackson after the final out. The mutual respect was evident.

Even if there is a bit of in-state rivalry.

Kyle Houghtaling can be reached by email at kyle.houghtaling@missoulian.com or on Twitter @khotel.

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