The two-day Veterans Memorial Softball Classic not only honors Montana veterans but features five teams named after each branch of the military and nearly a dozen games.

And five members of Belgrade’s three-time state championship team will compete.

The event at the Belgrade Softball Complex begins Friday with the opening ceremony at 1:30 p.m. followed by games at 2:30 p.m. Saturday’s championship is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

More than 60 of the state’s top prep softball players are participating, and tournament organizer James Matter Jr. touted this year’s talent pool.

“I’m always amazed at the talent that these girls have and that they bring to the tournament,” he said. “Looking at the stats when we were selecting rosters, almost half of the girls that RSVP’d had batting averages over .500. That to me just seems incredible. I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like that before, so it just continues to amaze me the type of talent that these girls have that are willing to come out and play in this.”

Olivia Cook, Haylee Curry, Erin Elgas, Kenna Thomas and Maddie Tomasetti will represent Belgrade. The group helped the Panthers to an unbeaten season and a third consecutive Class A championship last spring.

Cook, Curry and Elgas graduated and will play at the collegiate level, while Thomas and Tomasetti were sophomores last season.

“We’re always excited to have the Belgrade girls, and sometimes a little disappointed that we can’t have more. That Belgrade team has a great pool of talent,” Matter Jr. said. “Three in a row, three-peat championship — always excited to have the Belgrade girls come out.”

Elgas posted a 17-0 record in the circle this past season while compiling 100 strikeouts and a 1.25 ERA. She earned all-state honors along with Cook, who boasted a .464 batting average while belting nine homers and knocking in 37 runs.

Tomasetti was also an all-state selection while Thomas earned first-team all-conference honors. Curry, who was an honorable mention selection, was a late addition to the tournament after another player withdrew.

Thomas and Tomasetti will play for the Marines, while Curry filled the vacancy on the Air Force.

“There was a little bit of shuffling of the rosters. We had a couple girls pull out,” Matter Jr. said. “So we’ve had a couple late additions.”

Anna Toon, who won the Montana Gatorade Player of the Year award after guiding Great Falls to a second consecutive Class AA championship, did not accept an invitation to play.

“We didn’t hear from Anna. A little disappointing,” Matter Jr. said. “But, especially these seniors, some of them have to report to school. That’s one of the difficulties that we’ve had in years past is girls that have to report to school. Sometimes (the tournament) just runs into that school schedule and they can’t make it. So I guess that’s what I’m kind of assuming what may have happened.”

Manhattan head coach Randy Cygan will helm the Army. Cygan guided the Tigers, a second-year program, to the Class B/C tournament last season.

“I think Randy’s shown just in two years in his role as head coach out there at Manhattan where he’s brought that program to how they competed at the state tournament this year,” Matter Jr. said. “We’re excited to have Randy out and excited to see what he can do at the classic.”

There will be four games Friday followed by a catered dinner and home run derby beginning at 7 p.m. Matter Jr. noted the derby is full and plans to use two fields in order to speed things up. The pop-to-pop and base running contests will be Saturday morning.

Colton Pool can be reached at or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.