HELENA — It took months for the Carroll College softball team to return home Centennial Park.
But when it did, it didn’t take long to make a statement.
The Saints belted five home runs as they swept Friday’s Cascade Collegiate Conference doubleheader against the University of British Columbia 6-1 and 6-3.
Carroll coach Aaron Jackson was not only happy that his team was finally able to play on its home field in front of its home fans but more importantly, he said he was pleased that his squad regained its identity.
“We are finally back to who we are,” Jackson said. “Early on we were raking balls, and we got back to having some high-quality at-bats today. The kids came through with some big swings.”
Carroll (16-21, 9-14) entered the four-game series with the Thunderbirds in the middle of the conference with 21 home runs but managed just one home run during its recent five-game losing streak.
That all changed when junior first baseman Megan McCormick belted a two-run shot over the left field wall in the second inning.
Even intermittent rain showers could not cool off the Saints bats as Amber Brewer, and Ali Williams also hit home runs two innings later to put the game out of reach.
Tess Eaton, who was pitching in one of her final games at Centennial Park, managed to give up just one earned while scattering eight hits over seven innings thrown.
The only blemish was a two-out RBI single by Mia Valcke in the fifth inning.
“After last weekend we could have just laid down, but we know we have some history with this team,” Jackson said. “For two years they have ended our season (with no tournament appearances).”
Not only was Carroll seeking some retribution, but it was also looking to keep a spot in the upcoming Cascade Collegiate Conference Tournament.
Before Friday, the Saints held the sixth and final spot, but the two wins put them ahead of British Columbia (19-23, 14-13) for fifth place and a three-game lead over Providence, sitting seventh.
The Thunderbirds showed they could also hit for power when Williams watched Claire Eccles launched a ball over the center-field wall to take a 2-0 lead.
But in the fourth inning, momentum shifted.
Senior catcher Tianna Sell stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and blasted the very first pitch she saw for her early career grand slam.
“As soon as I saw Ali (Williams) get on and the bases were loaded. I knew I had to hit the ball hard and score some runs,” Sell said. “She is my battery mate, and she really deserved that win.”
Williams gave herself a little insurance on the mound when she hit her second home run of the day as the Saints claimed a 6-3 win.
Carroll returns to Centennial Park tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. for another doubleheader against British Columbia weather permitting.
Between the two games, Jackson said he will recognize the team’s five seniors.
“What a tremendous senior class we have,” Jackson said. “They have touched us in so many ways and credit them for sticking through four years here. We are just excited to celebrate them tomorrow.”