By Bill Foley
Maddi Kump was all smiles as she took her home run stroll around the bases Tuesday afternoon on Field No. 2 at Stodden Park.
The Butte Central freshman third baseman followed a shot from Emma Keeley to go back-to-back with fifth inning bombs.
“It felt really good. I’ve never hit one before,” Kump said of her blast over the fence in left-center field. “It was crazy. I was just thinking about a home run a lot, and I’ve been working hard to get one.”
For Kump, who has seen adjustments to her swing a grip pay huge dividends lately, the dinger couldn’t have come at a better time. It helped send BC seniors Kassidy Criscuolo and Kloie Thatcher off in style as the Maroons beat Livingston 12-2 in a nonconference softball game.
The game was called by the 10-run rule after Cassidy Strizic hit an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth.
“I just knew we had to do something since it was their last game,” Kump, who drove in four runs, said about the BC seniors. “We didn’t want them to leave with a loss.”
The day was about Criscuolo and Thatcher, who were honored along with their parents in a pre-game ceremony. It was also about an entire young Maroon roster, which includes the two seniors, one junior and a bunch of underclassmen.
All nine BC batters reached base as the Maroons erupted for 11 hits in the victory that evened BC’s record at 10-10 in the final regular-season game.
“I’m impressed offensively,” BC coach Kelci Thatcher said. “They executed well. They bunted well for the most part. Every one, one through nine, made contact.”
The Rangers used a walk and a couple of bloopers to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Livingston picked up seven hits on the day, and most of them were bloopers or seeing-eye singles.
Coach Thatcher felt the Maroons could have gotten to some of those early hits.
“I’m proud of the way we hit the ball today,” the coach said. “If we could just clean up defensively, I’ll be a happy coach.”
“It seems like we can’t ever start a game off right. We’re always a little bit slow moving defensively. But, they worked their way out of it. Zoe (Doherty) made some good plays at second, and we stepped it up.”
The Maroons quickly answered in the bottom of the first when Kloie Thatcher, the lead-off hitter, singled, took second when Criscuolo bunted for a single, stole third and scored on an error.
Criscuolo came in through the back door when Kump grounded out for her first RBI to put BC on top for good at 2-1.
Thatcher doubled in the second inning for her ninth hit in nine at bats since Saturday morning at the LaVerne Combo Invitational.
Much to her dismay, the Rangers intentionally walked Thatcher in the fourth. She broke her hit streak when she reached on an error in the sixth.
Central took advantage of four Livingston errors. Two of them played a big role in the fourth inning.
Kump and Zoe Doherty reached on errors before scoring on double by catcher Cassidy Strizic. Gracie Wall drove Strizic in with a double to make it 5-1.
The Maroons made it 7-1 with the back-to-back blasts from Keeley and Kump in the seventh.
The roof fell off for the Rangers in the sixth.
Makala Doherty and McKenzie Norton led off the inning with singles. Thatcher reached on the error before Criscuolo drew a bases-loaded walk.
Keeley added an RBI walk before Strizic blooped a shot to left to drive in Keeley with the game-clinching run.
Strizic joined Kump and Thatcher with a two-hit game. Kump, who has been bumped to the cleanup spot, has 10 hits in five games since making her adjustments before the Combo.
Katelyn McKinnon played left field for the Maroons, while Thatcher struck out six batters in the win.
Losing pitcher Paige Gavne hit a double and a single to lead the Ranger offense. Josie Jesson hit two singles.
Now, the Maroons have to sit back and await their postseason fate.
Central will go to the Class A State tournament next week if Stevensville loses games to Frenchtown and Hamilton on Thursday and Saturday. If the Yellowjackets pull off an upset in either game — and it would be a substantial upset — the Maroons are done.
For now, Kelci Thatcher said her team is focused on what it can control. That means appreciating BC’s two seniors.
“We’re going to have some big shoes to fill next year,” the coach said of Strizic and Kloie Thatcher, the coach’s cousin. “They’ve been really good leaders. They’ve been positive and encouraging. They really complement each other in so many ways. We couldn’t have asked for better seniors.”
Livingston 100 001 — 2 7 4
Butte Central 200 325 — 12 11 1
Paige Gavne and Lindsey Lee; Kloie Thatcher and Cassidy Strizic. W — Thatcher (6-9). L — Gavne.
LIVINGSTON — Jyll Becker 1-2, Ellie Nelson 1-3, Gavne 2-3, Reagan Frantz 0-3, Danielle Babcox 1-3, Micaela Murphy 0-2, Haleigh Gilliam 0-0, Josie Jesson 2-3, Skylar Higgs 0-3, Lee 0-3.
BUTTE CENTRAL (10-10) — Thatcher 2-3, Kassidy Criscuolo 1-3, Emma Keeley 1-3, Maddi Kump 2-4, Zoe Doeherty 0-3, Strizic 2-4, Gracie Wall 1-3, Makala Doherty 1-3, McKenzie Norton 1-3, Katelyn McKinnon 0-0.
HR — Keeley, Kump. 2B — Gavne; Thatcher. RBIs — Gavne, Higgs; Kump 4, Strizic 3, Keeley 2, Criscuolo, Wall.