By Bill Foley
The first few weeks of the 2017 season has already been a learning experience for the ultra-young Butte Central softball team.
The Maroons must feel like it is finals week because BC has already run the gauntlet of who’s who in the Class A.
Facing another top team, the Maroons saw Belgrade pound four home runs Tuesday afternoon in 13-2 in a nonconference game at Stodden Park. The game was called after five innings by the 10-run rule.
Butte Central coach Kelci Thatcher said she saw improvement from her team, which was playing for the first time in 10 days.
“We did a lot of good things in that game,” Thatcher said. “We made some good plays. Still we’ve got to have more than four hits, three hits, or something like that. We know teams are going to score runs on us. We’re not going to win very many games if we can only score two runs.”
The coach said the Maroons don’t use youth as an excuse because being young and playing varsity is something a school with about 130 students is accustom to.
“We’re starting four freshman, but I told them ‘You’re really not freshman anymore,’” Thatcher said. “You’ve just got to consider yourself an upperclassman because at Central you don’t have the luxury of working your way up to play varsity. You’re just thrown in there.’”
The Panthers, who rolled their record to 6-0, got home runs from Haylee Curry, Khiala Rollins, Kalista Pachl and Erin Elgas.
In all, the Panthers pounded 16 hits. Curry and Rollins led off the game with a single and double, respectively, as the Panthers hung three on the board in the first inning to take the lead for good.
Kloie Thatcher, who picked up the loss in the pitchers’ circle, led off the bottom of the inning with a triple. The speedy BC junior scored on a throwing error.
After the Panthers extended the lead to 4-1 in the top of the second, the Maroons answered with a run when catcher Megan Michelotti doubled and scored on an error.
The Panthers added a run in the third before hitting three home runs in a four-run fourth inning that broke the game open. Four more Belgrade runs in the fifth closed the game out.
Shania Neubauer and Erin Elgas combined to hold the Maroons to five hits.
Two of those hits came from Thatcher, who singled in the third. Freshman Emma Keeley joined Michelotti with a double. Kassidy Criscuolo singled on a bunt.
The loss wasn’t from a lack of effort. Criscuolo, BC’s center fielder, made several nice efforts on deep hits. That included running into and falling over the temporary outfield fence. Twice.
“I told her, ‘We’ve got to work on telling you there’s a fence,’” coach Thatcher said. “She goes, ‘They were telling me, I just thought I could get it.’ Making those extra efforts for plays is really going to help us down the line.”
Freshman Zoe Doherty added an outstanding, run-saving catch in right field.
Coach Thatcher also pointed to the defensive play of third baseman Mollie Peoples on a double play, stabs at short stop by Keeley and the play at first base bay freshman Makala Doherty. Doherty filled in for Brooke Raiha, who missed the game because she had her wisdom teeth taken out.
“Overall, I’m happy,” Thatcher said. “We’re competing; we’re not just throwing in the towel. As long as we keep working hard, I think, towards the end, we’ll be a lot better team.”
The Maroons will go back to work Thursday when they head to Dillon. Corvallis comes to town for a noon battle Saturday at Stodden Park.
Belgrade 311 44 — 13 16 2
Butte Central 110 00 — 1 4 0
Shania Neubauer, Erin Elgas (3) and Haylee Curry; Kloie Thatcher, Makala Doherty (4), Thatcher (5) and Megan Michelotti. W — Eglas. L — Thatcher.
BELGRADE (6-0) — Curry 3-3, Khiala Rollins 3-4, Neubauer 1-2, Ty Atwood 1-2, Kalista Pachl 3-4, Lanie Morgan 2-4, Alexa Deming 1-3, Elgas 1-3, Presley Jacobsen 1-2.
BUTTE CENTRAL (1-3) — Thatcher 2-3, Emma Keeley 1-3, Mollie Peoples 0-3, Taylor Wahl 0-2, Kassidy Criscuolo 1-2, Michelotti 1-2, Cassidy Strizic 0-2, M. Doherty 0-2, Zoe Doherty 0-2.
HR — Curry, Rollins, Pachl, Elgas. 3B — Thatcher. 2B — Rollins, Neubauer; Keeley, Michelotti. RBIs — Pachl 3, Curry 2, Rollins 2, Atwood, Elgas, Neubauer, Demin.