By Bill Foley
Butte Central’s softball team didn’t pick up a win in Friday night’s Southwestern A softball showdown with Frenchtown at a frigid Stodden Park.
The young Maroons, though, just might have gotten a major confidence booster in their second game of the LaVerne Combo Invitational. (Scores/schedule)
BC rebounded from a sloppy performance in a loss to Havre earlier in the day to go toe to toe with the second-place Broncs in a 5-3 loss.
“I can’t be disappointed in the girls,” BC coach Kelci Thatcher said. “It was a hard-fought game.”
A two-run home run by Frenchtown pitcher Brynn Leishman in the top of the fifth inning proved to be the difference in the victory that pushed the Broncs to 13-5 overall and 7-2 in conference play.
Her counterpart, BC senior Kloie Thatcher, got the Maroons off to a hot start. After sitting the Broncs down in order in the top of the first, Thatcher blasted a leadoff home run to left field in the bottom of the inning.
Central made it a 2-0 game when Kassidy Criscuolo, who reached on an error, scored on a Madison Kump single.
The lead stayed that way into the third inning, but it took a Houdini act by Thatcher for that to happen.
After giving up a leadoff single to Leishman in the top of the second, Thatcher beaned Megan snow and walked Callie Bagnell to lead the bases with nobody out.
Thatcher got Mikaila Nelson to hit a soft liner to first baseman Makala Doherty before striking out Kylie Willett and Kami Bidlake looking to end the inning.
“We competed the whole game,” Kelci Thatcher said. “Kloie worked out of some tough situations.”
BC made it 3-0 in the third inning. Thatcher led off with a single and moved to second on a bunt by Criscuolo. Thatcher took third and then scored on wild pitches.
The Broncs got on the board in the fourth. Leishman singled, and courtesy runner Layne Bauer scored when Nelson reached on an error.
Leishman’s home run, which was pulled down the left-field line, capped a three-run fifth for the Broncs. Medan Delaney walked and scored on an error to start the inning.
Frenchtown added an insurance run in the top of the seventh. Leishman walked, and Bauer, courtesy running for the third time, came home on a wild pitch.
The game ended with three at ’em balls. McKenzie Norton smashed a hard liner back to Leishman, Thatcher flew out deep to center, and Criscuolo crushed a grounder to short.
“Unfortunately, that’s just the way the game goes sometimes,” Kelci Thatcher said. “It’s not like we were striking out or popping up. We had to make them make plays, and they did.”
Central outhit the Broncs 7-5. Kump and Thatcher each had a pair of hits. Criscuolo doubled, and Cassidy Strizic and Makala Doherty singled. Doherty, nicknamed “Johnny” by her teammates, played despite an ankle injury that was X-rayed earlier in the day.
The Broncs got all five of their hits from their Nos. 4, 5 and 6 hitters. Leishman went 3 for 3 with the walk, while Snow and Bagnell each singled.
Leishman struck out five batters, with three of them coming in the second inning.
Thatcher struck out nine batters in the hard-luck loss.
“A 5-3 game, that just shows the girls that we can compete with anyone, and I think that’s good going into the next few weeks,” Kelci Thatcher said.
The coach pointed out that her team handled the cold conditions in stride.
“It was good for their mental toughness,” she said of the battle. “They didn’t make excuses, and they just kept battling. I’m proud of them.
“We’re competing against teams that are upperclassmen. Confidence is a big key for these girls. Hopefully we’ll build on it from tonight.”
The Maroons fell to 8-9 overall and 5-5 in conference play. They will make the state tournament as the third and final seed from the Southwestern A if Stevensville falls to Hamilton and Frenchtown next week.
If the Yellowjackets pull off an upset, the Maroons will end their season with a nonconference home game against Livingston on Tuesday.
First, the Maroons will play two more games during the Compo Invitational on Saturday. BC takes on Laurel at 10:45 a.m. before closing the tournament against Glendive at 2:15 p.m.
Frenchtown 000 130 1 — 5 5 2
Butte Central 201 000 0 — 3 7 2
Brynn Leishman and Dana Jacobs; Kloie Thatcher and Cassidy Strizic. W — Leishman. L — Thatcher (4-8).
FRENCHTOWN (13-5, 7-2) — Megan Delaney 0-3, Jacobs 0-2, Kylie Habeck 0-4, Leishman 3-3, Layne Bauer 0-0, Megan Snow 1-2, Callie Bagnell 1-3, Mikaila Nelson 0-4, Kylie Willett 0-2, Kami Bidlake 0-1, Kendra Williams 0-2.
BUTTE CENTRAL (8-9, 5-5) — Kloie Thatcher 2-4, Kassidy Criscuolo 1-3, Emma Keeley 0-3, Zoe Doherty 0-3, Madison Kump 2-3, Strizic 1-3, Makala Doherty 1-3, Katelyn McKinnon 0-3, McKenzie Norton 0-3.
HR — Leishman; Thatcher. 2B — Criscuolo. RBIs — Leishman 2, Nelson; Thatcher, Kump.