By Bruce Sayler
Kaidy McClafferty’s right arm has been hotter than Johnny Flame’s in recent days, and Brianna Ossello’s bat has been sizzling with sparkler brilliance since the high school softball season started.
The two were on fire again Tuesday when Butte High beat Bozeman 10-1 in an Eastern AA Conference game at Stodden Park.
McClafferty whistled a 14-strikeout one-hitter without walking a batter, and Ossello went 4-for-4 with a run-scoring double. They had plenty of company in Bulldog starring roles.
“I was interested in seeing how we’d respond after being so high with our two wins in Billings on Saturday,” Butte High head coach Ryan Stosich said, referring to a conference doubleheader sweep of Billings Senior. “I thought the girls responded well.”
McClafferty fanned eight of the first nine batters Bozeman sent to the plate while the Bulldogs built a 4-0 lead through three innings.
“We played well in all three phases — offense, defense and pitching,” Stosich said. “Kaidy has cut down on her walks this year and that has really helped us. She pitched well again today, except for my mistake.
“Brianna Ossello is hitting well — really well. And, we had a couple of players who have been struggling a little at the plate start getting going. Jenna Maroney had a couple of hits, Brittney Tierney had a good double and Madison Joseph has incredible opposite-field power.”
Joseph blasted a solo home run in the fourth inning that churned through a left-to-right crosswind to clear the fence just inside the right-field foul pole. The “mistake” Stosich referred to and put on himself was the only hit McClafferty allowed, a one-out towering solo home run by Hope Titchbourne over the left-field fence.
“I called for a changeup,” Stosich said, shaking his head, “right after we got her to swing and miss on a high fastball.”
Timely hitting gave the Bulldogs three runs on four hits in their half of the first. They scored the three with two out. Ossello batted a one-out single into center field, but was erased as Taylor Huff’s fly ball was fumbled, then recovered soon enough for the putout at second base. Katelyn Alley laced a single up the middle and Jenna Maroney poked a single into right field that plated Huff. Alley moved to third on Maroney’s hit. Maroney stole second base and continued on to third after the throw on her was dropped and rolled into the outfield. Alley came home on the error. Kennedi Ferriter knocked a single to right to drive in Maroney.
Ossello bunted for a base hit to lead off the Butte High third inning and moved up on an out later on a sacrifice bunt by Alley. Maroney drove Ossello home with a rip to center field for a single.
Butte High batters routed Titchbourne for 13 hits on the day, six over the first three innings. Meanwhile, McClafferty was mowing down the opposition.
The junior third-year No. 1 pitcher for the Bulldogs said she was “definitely” happy with her performance and that she had a lot of fun in the circle Tuesday.
“That’s where I belong. It’s in my heart,” she said. “I played all winter and was on (an elite) traveling team that played across the country and got me to where I want to go.
“It’s definitely been a better year for me because when I was a young player, I was not mentally tough enough to do it. It’s great having this team behind me and know they want it like I do, which makes me want to do it (be the ace pitcher) more.”
She lauded her defensive support, which has enhanced her confidence. McClafferty noted her velocity has increased noticeably over last year, due probably to her elite traveling team competition. It was mostly a fastball-changeup combination she threw Tuesday with varying speeds. She also has a screwball, which McClafferty said she didn’t use much.
“The wind is always my enemy,” she said. “I didn’t throw my screw because the wind wouldn’t have helped me.”
Titchbourne slugged her homer in the fourth, but Butte High answered with two runs in the bottom of the frame. Joseph homered to start it. After two outs, Tierney and Ossello belted back-to-back doubles for the other run.
The Bulldogs finished the scoring with four runs in their part of the sixth. Jenna Walker led off with a single to left. Ossello then spanked a one-out single into left-center, and Huff smacked a base hit up the middle that scored Walker. A bobble in the outfield allowed the runners to advance to third and second bases. A throw to third was errant and Ossello scored. Huff moved up to third on a passed ball and scored on another Bozeman error, the Hawks’ fourth of the ,game and third of the inning. Ferriter singled to center field to bring home Alley, who had reached base on the earlier error.
Maroney and Ferriter each collected two hits and two runs batted for their good day at the plate.
The win put Butte High over the .500 mark for the season at 5-4 with the Bulldogs’ conference record standing at 3-1. They will travel to Great Falls on Thursday for a league twin bill versus Great Falls High. Bozeman’s ledgers are now 0-7 overall and 0-5 in the Eastern AA.
Bozeman 000 100 0 — 1 1 4
Butte High 301 204 x — 10 12 2
Hope Titchbourne and Kaylie Wiers. Kaidy McClafferty and Emma Cox. W — McClafferty (5-2). L — Titchbourne.
BOZEMAN (0-7, 0-5) — Kaylie Wiers 0-3, Brooke Harlin 0-3, Hope Titchbourne 1-3, Tessa Laufenberg 0-3, Taylor Martin 0-2, Tana Dincau 0-1, Faith Perrins 0-2, Sadie Cathey 0-1, Abi McGee 0-2, Amanda Hammer 0-2, Justice Warner 0-2, Ashley Wasia 0-0.
BUTTE HIGH (5-4, 3-1) — Brittney Tierney 1-3, Alyssa Walsh 0-1, Brianna Ossello 4-4, Taylor Huff 1-3, Katelyn Alley 1-2, Jenna Maroney 2-3, Katlyn O’Brien 0-1, Kennedi Ferriter 2-4, Madison Joseph 1-4, Kaidy McClafferty 0-2, McKenna Savage 0-1, Emma Cox 0-2, Jenna Walker 1-1.
2B — Tierney, Ossello. HR — Titchbourne, Joseph (1). RBIs — Bozeman 1 (Titchbourne), Butte High 7 (Maroney 2, Ferriter 2, Ossello 1, Huff 1, Joseph 1).