By Bruce Sayler
An almost sweep turned into a split that forced a game three in Tuesday’s Eastern AA high school girls’ softball best-of-three playoff series at Stodden Park on Tuesday.
Butte High won a 6-1 opener over Billings Skyvview and then lost 10-8 when the Bulldogs saw an 8-5 lead disappear in the bottom of the seventh inning to the Falcons. It brought on the third game, which the Bulldogs won by 11-4 and earned a berth in next week’s state Class AA tournament in Great Falls.
“I knew coach (Mike) Falcon would have them ready to go,” Butte High head coach Ryan Stosich said. “They’re a good hitting team, so what (Butte HIgh pitcher) Kaidy McClafferty did today was special.”
McClafferty went wire-to-wire in the circle and also swung the bat pretty well.
“We had some errors today, not many,” Stosich conceded. “But, they weren’t because of any lack of effort.”
Junior center fielder Madison Joseph batted 6-for-9 over the three games.
Junior first baseman Brianna Ossello was one of several Bulldogs who contributed all-around good efforts to the day’s overall success for the team.
“This is my first time ever playing first base,” said Ossello, who was the starting second baseman last year, said. “It’s my first season at first base. It’s a lot different from second base, but I like it.”
It was a good series for two pretty evenly matched opponents.
“There were a lot of big moments, today,” Stosich said.
Butte High 6, Skyview 1
Pitchers McClafferty and Raegan Harper dueled for 2 ½ innings until Butte High broke ahead 4-0 in the bottom of the third inning. The big blow was Jenna Maroney’s bases-loaded double off of the center-field fence that drove in three runs.
Madison Joseph began the surge with a single to center field. Katelyn Alley sacrificed her to second base and Brittney Tierney was hit by a pitch. Ossello outran a bunt to load the bases. Taylor Hoff then drew a walk to force Joseph in with the playoffs’ first run.
One out later, Maroney clouted her bases-clearing two-bagger.
The Falcons scored their only run in the top of the sixth when Breezy Nafts bunted her way on base and came home a batter later on a throwing error.
The Bulldogs got it back, plus added a run in the bottom of the inning. Maroney beat out on an infield hit and Kennedi Ferriter’s sacrifice bunt was misplayed for an error. Two outs later, Katelyn Alley smashed a two-run double down the third-base line.
McClafferty was touched for a two-out double and single in the top of the seventh, but retired standout Ashlynne Copinga on a comebacker to end the game, stranding runners on first and third.
McClafferty finished the first game with four strikeouts and no walks issued.
Skyview 000 001 0 — 1 4 1
Butte High 004 002 x — 6 6 3
Raegan Harper and Kaylee Kannegiesser. Kaidy McClafferty and Emma Cox. W — McClafferty (10-7). L — Harper.
BILLINGS SKYVIEW (9-13) —Kaylee Kannegiesser 0-3, Breezy Nafts 1-3, Tyler Fleury 0-2, Briana Guse 0-3, Jess Ellis 0-3, Monroe Spoja 0-3, Skyler Chartier 0-2, Madi McLean 1-3, Skyler Meagher 0-0, Abbey Bryan 1-1, Ashlynne Copinga 0-3.
BUTTE HIGH (11-11) — Brittney Tierney 0-2, Brianna Ossello 1-3, Taylor Huff 0-2, Kaidy McClafferty 0-2, Jenna Maroney 2-3, Kennedi Ferriter 0-2, Jenna Walker 0-0, Emma Cox 0-3, Madison Joseph 2-3, Katelyn Alley 1-1.
Extra-base hits — 2B — Bryan, Maroney, Alley.
Runs batted in — Skyview 0, Butte High 6 (Maroney 3, Alley 2, Huff 1).
Skyview 10, Butte High 8
Butte High had another 6-1 command and looked in control, until it all went to heck on the Bulldogs and prevented a sweep and earlier chance to vacate for a warmer indoors.
The Butte High girls held a 10-5 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh and needing just three outs to clinch the tourney spot. Copinga beat out an infield hit with one out, Tyler Fleury walked and Briana Guse singled to right, loading the bases. After a flyout that failed to score anybody, Jess Ellis delivered a two-run single. Abbey Bryan then stepped up and finished the comeback with a three-run homer over the center-field fence for the walkoff win.
The Bulldogs had first built their command to 6-1. They were up by 3-0 after the first half of the first inning. Ossello belted a one-out double down the right-field line and went to third on a comebacker. McClafferty worked a walk. Maroney struck oiut, but the wild pitch on the third strike allowed her to run to first base safely while Ossello scored. The Bulldogs pulled off a double steal with Jenna Walker, courtesy running for McClafferty, coming home and Maroney going to second. Ferriter singled Maroney home.
The Falcons striuck for a run in their half of the first. Copinga reached on a one-out error and rode home on a Fleury double to left field.
Butte High came back with two runs in the second frame. Joseph walked before Alley was out on a soft liner to pitcher Shae Earley. Tierney’s groundout was played for an out at second on Joseph. Ossello then ripped a ground-rule double that hopped the fence in right-center and Huff followed with a two-run single to center.
The Bulldogs scored again when diminutive junior catcher Emma Cox greeted relief pitcher Raegan Harper with a two-out solo home run to straightaway center field.
Skyview scored three times in the fourth to whittle the difference to 6-4. The Falcons had two on and two out when Skyler Chartier’s flyball was dropped in the outfield, allowing one run to score. An errant throw let the other two runs score on a ground-ball play.
Maroney mashed a one-out solo home run in the top of the fifth to expand Butte High’s lead back to 7-4. The Falcons responded in their fifth with a double by Guse that hit home Copinga, who had gotten on via an infield hit.
Butte HIgh tallied once more, in the top of the seventh. Maroney walked with one out and took second on a wild pitch. She raced home on a single to right by Ferriter.
The Falcons then came to the plate trailing 10-8, and pulled out the win.
Butte High 321 010 1 — 8 10 3
Skyview 100 310 5 — 1 8 2
Kaidy McClafferty and Emma Cox. Shae Earley, Raegan Harper (3) and Kaylee Kannegiesser. W — Harper. L — McClafferty (10-8).
BUTTE HIGH (11-12) —Brittney Tierney 0-4, Brianna Ossello 3-4, Taylor Huff 1-4, Kaidy McClafferty 0-2, Jenna Walker 0-0, Katlyn O’Brien 1-1, Jenna Maroney 1-3, Kennedi Ferriter 2-4, Emma Cox 1-4, Trisha Ericson 0-0, Madison Joseph 1-3, Katelyn Alley 0-2, Jaden Cleveland 0-1.
BILLINGS SKYVIEW (10-13) — Kaylee Kannegiesser 0-4, Ashlynne Copinga 2-4, Tyler Fleury 1-2, Briana Guse 3-4, Breezy Nafts 0-4, Jess Ellis 2-3, Abbey Bryan 1-4, Skyler Chartier 0-3, Madison Spoja 0-3.
Extra-base hits — 2B — Ossello 2, Joseph, Fleury, Guse. HR — Cox (1), Maroney (2), Bryan.
Runs batted in — Butte High 6 (Huff 2, Ferriter 2, Maroney 1, Cox 1), Skyview 7 (Bryan 3, Ellis 2, Fleury 1, Guse 1).