By Bruce Sayler
The lightning strike that started the game belonged to Butte Central. The one that finished it was Mother Nature’s.
The Maroons beat Sidney 7-1 Friday night in the last session of the first day of the annual LaVerne Combo Invitational high school girls’ softball tournament at Stodden Park.
Games are scheduled through Saturday in the tourney, which is also holding games at Father Sheehan Park. BC went 2-0 on Friday and is slated to face Glendive at 12:30 and Laurel at 4 p.m. on Saturday with both games set for Field No. 2 at Stodden Park.
Butte Central’s win over Sidney came in a game ended in the fifth inning by a lightning flash that preceded by mere moments a sheet-like downpour that limited visibility to only a few feet.
The Maroons led all the way.
The bottom of the first inning saw Kloie Thatcher lead off with a single to center field — her fifth straight hit of the day. She went to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Kassidy Criscuolo and rode home on a base hit to center by Emma Keeley. Mollie Peoples looped a single into right field near the first baseline. Taylor Wahl lined a ball hard off of Sidney pitcher Maddie DiFonzo’s glove hand and the hurler recovered in time to throw out the batter at first base. Both Keeley and Peoples advanced. Keeley scored when Megan Michelotti’s bouncer was misplayed, then Peoples came home on a wild pitch. The BC girls led 3-0.
Michelotti, the junior catcher, said the hitting has been a focus of practice in recent weeks and the feeling is that the work is beginning to pay dividends.
“We’ve been trying to work on it,” she said. “Our hats had been so scattered, we couldn’t ever seem to get anything going. Today, everybody is hitting.”
She pointed to the game BC played earlier in the day, a 14-7 win over Havre, in which Butte Central powered five home runs, including one by Michelotti.
“The entire team is seeing the ball so well,” she said. “You’ve got to be seeing it well to hit home runs.”
The Eagles got one run back in the second. They started the inning with singles by Madison Thiessen and DiFonzo. Bree Fischer moved them ahead with a sacrifice bunt. Thiessen came home on a wild pitch before Thatcher struck out the next two batters.
Thatcher wound up throwing a two-hitter with six strikeouts over the five innings. Michelotti caught the distance after playing all but one inning of the previous game in right field. This is Michelotti’s third position in three years. She started at third base as a freshman, then moved to right field as a sophomore. All-State catcher Corbyn Holm was unable to return this year due to a knee injury suffered at the end of basketball season and so Michelotti was asked to go behind the plate. Her older sister, Maria, was a recent All-State Class AA catcher for Butte High.
“Infield, outfield and catcher, three totally different positions,” Michelotti said with a smile about the changes. “It keeps you on your toes. I like them all.”
Butte Central tallied a run in its half of the second when Thatcher reached on a fielder’s choice and traveled home on Criscuolo’s double to left.
Then, the Maroons put up three more runs in the fourth. Base hits by Brooke Raiha, Cassidy Strizic and Zoe Doherty — the latter two on bunts — loaded the bases with none out. Raiha sped home on a wild pitch and then Thatcher grounded out, batting Strizic home in the process. Criscuolo singled home Doherty.
Thatcher retired Sidney in order in the top of the fifth inning. Two batters into the Maroons’ ar-bats in their half of the frame, the lightning was seen and umpires cleared the field. Everyone from all three diamonds exited and the tourney was over for the night.
Sidney 010 00x x — 1 2 2
Butte Central 310 3xx x — 7 8 0
One out when game was ended because of a lightning flash.
Maddie DiFonzo, Maddie Peters (4) and Logan Peterson. Kloie Thatcher and Megan Michelotti. W — Thatcher. L — DiFonzo.
SIDNEY —Logan Peterson 0-2, Emily Skogen 0-2, Lexie Smith 0-2, Lexie Smith 0-2, Madison Thiessen 1-2, Maddie DiFonzo 1-2, Bree Fischer 0-1, Kiana Uran 0-1, Katie Stoddard 0-0, Maddie Peters 0-1, Madison Thiel 0-2, Zoe Merrill 0-1.
BUTTE CENTRAL (12-6) —Kloie Thatcher 1-3, Kassidy Criscuolo 2-2, Emma Keeley 1-2, Mollie Peoples 1-3, Taylor Wahl 0-3, Megan Michelotti 1-3, Kenzie Norton 0-0, Brooke Raiha 1-2, Cassidy Strizic 1-2, Zoe Doherty 1-1.
Extra-base hit — 2B — Criscuolo.
Runs batted in — Sidney 0, BC 4 (Criscuolo 2, Thatcher 1, Keeley 1).