Hellgate Softball: One Pitch At a Time


Maddy Petrino takes an at bat during Hellgate’s game agaisnt Sentinel on April 4, 2023, at the University of Montana softball field.

Brennan Labbe, Reporter

MISSOULA- Sometimes it’s not about highlighting numbers, rather than athletes. That is exactly what Missoula Hellgate’s 2022-23 Softball program is about. The Knights who fill the lineup card every game day for Hellgate are not focused on the outcome of the contest. Or their opponent. 

In rebuilding stages, Hellgate’s softball players’ aim every day their starting-nine takes the field is to come away with lessons they can carry onto the next matchup. Sophomore Kaija Nagle, junior Keira Babbitt, and senior Maddy Petrino light that path for the Knights.

And the fire that was struck by that trio burns bright into the late stages of the season.

Nagle is a second-year starting third baseman for the Knights. As one of the younger leaders for Hellgate, she relies heavily on her driving passion to compete. “Always staying positive and being supportive to my team, through good and rough times,” said Nagle, on what she carries throughout the year with her. “Always being a whole no matter what, and trying to reach not only our personal goals, but goals that we have as a team.” 

With two years of eligibility left, Nagle looks to continue to be a rising leader for this young team that is growing in age and experience every year. 

“I think we all have the mindset to want to get better and achieve our goal, and that is a great way to bring us all together,” said Nagle. “Though we are a young developing team, we all have the drive to want to be on the field and work through every game.” 

Babbitt is Hellgate’s starting shortstop. She is one of nine Knights who also showcase their ability over Missoula’s respective club teams. The Missoula Avalanche, Sparks, Elite, and Riot are all composed of prep Missoulian athletes.

“My number one goal for the team is to grow on and off the field, and to stay positive even when we are faced with defeat,” said Babbitt. “I think that will help us improve a lot.” 

Babbitt played her freshman year for the Knights, before taking a year off and then returning as a junior.

“I think the energy and the drive to be better {what is special about this group}. There is not one girl out there who is not giving it their all,” said Babbitt. “I love to be a good teammate on and off the girls, and have a fun time with my team when we are playing.”

Finally, Hellgate’s lone senior Petrino rounds off the resilient group of athletes who compose this spring’s team. “My biggest goal for the team is to lead by example, and show while teaching some of the young girls how to also be leaders, and the little details that make the game,” said Petrino. 

Hellgate’s senior phenom currently has two college offers from competitive out-of-state colleges in Minnesota; Crown College and Concordia College. 

“My favorite part of softball is how much of an individual sport it is, while also being a team sport,” said Petrino. “I love how much we have come together to be successful.”

But as the athlete that she is, Petrino has decided to take her talents to Boise State, and manage the women’s basketball team, after she graduates this spring. 

“I look forward to showing everyone the talent that I have while also helping the team learn the different game situations”, said Petrino, on how she plans to set up Hellgate’s team for future success. 

So as these groups of athletes continue to build up their program to one that will soon be competitive at the Divisional and State level, they are winding down their 2023 Spring campaign with their last home stand. Come out and support these awesome players on Friday, May 12, and the following Thursday and Saturday (May 18- May 20) at the Rattlesnake fields as they take on Glacier, Gallatin, and Helena to close out their season!