By Bruce Sayler
The best of many great moments in Tuesday afternoon Class AA softball occurred about .79 seconds after Madison Joseph caught the last out.
That was when left fielder Katelyn Alley tackled the junior center fielder and the two of them tumbled into the rain-soaked grass in victorious celebration. The rest of the team members rushed to them on dead sprints and dove into a Butte High Bulldog pile of laughs, hoots and hollers.
The party capped an 11-4 win for Butte High in the third game of a best-of-three series against Billings Skyview at Stodden Park that bought a ticket for the winning team to the May 25-27 state Class AA tournament in Great Falls. The Skyview players boarded the bus home for Billings to stow their equipment until next season.
(Story continues after photo gallery)
The Falcons and Bulldogs split the first two games, Butte High opening the set with a 6-1 win before Skyview rallied in the bottom of the seventh inning of the second game for a 10-8 triumph that forced the tiebreaker contest.
If Ryan Stosich, head coach of the Bulldogs, was afraid of anything on Tuesday, it was that he would leave somebody out in dishing out praise.
“What Kaidy McClafferty did today was pretty special,” Stosich said of his junior pitching ace who hurled all 21 innings and competed through all of them so extraordinarily. “Taylor Huff had a great hit. Jenna Maroney had a great day overall. Brittney Tierney is a vacuum, defensively, (at third base) and Brianna Ossello had some hits. Emma Cox caught every pitch for us for three games and that is really a hard thing to do.
“Kennedi Ferriter got us some hits and made some plays. Katlyn O’Brien made me look brilliant with her home run. Katelyn Alley and Madison Joseph made some plays for us in the outfield. And, my assistant coaches — we couldn’t do this without them.”
If the Bulldogs were knocked down by losing late to Skyview in the second game, they didn’t hint so. They were resilient and bounced right back.
After a scoreless game for an inning and a half, Ferriter knocked a double to left field that scored Jenna Walker, who was the courtesy runner for McClafferty. McClafferty had gained a walk to start the inning.
The Falcons, though, clawed back with a three-run top of the fourth. Nreezy Nafts slugged a one-out solo home run over the right-field fence. Singles up the middle by Jess Ellis and Abbey Bryan followed. Ellis, who had gone to second base on a wild pitch, scored on Bryan’s hit and Bryan came home on an error.
The 3-1 Skyview lead didn’t last long. Butte HIgh recouped control in its next at-bats. Ossello led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a walk and Huff hammered a home run over the left-field fence to tie the score. McClafferty walked and courtesy runner Walker went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Maroney. Walker was erased on a fielder’s choice, but Ferriter reached base before Cox was safe on an error. Joseph singled to left to bring in Ferriter and Trisha Ericson, running for Cox, followed her home when Joseph’s hit got away in the outfield. The Bulldogs were back ahead, 5-3.
O’Brien’s three-run blast in the fifth widened the advantage to 8-3. Tierney beat out a bunt for a base hit and Huff reached on an error to set the table for O’Brien.
In the sixth, the Bulldogs plated three more runs and led by 11-3. Joseph singled and Alley walked to start the bottom of the frame. An error on a fielder’s choice Tierney grounded into let Alley score, then Ossello stroked a single to left. Tierney dashed home on a wild pitch before Ossello came home on an infield hit by McClafferty.
Fielding and throwing troubles betrayed Skyview as the Falcons were assessed seven errors.
Skyview attempted to come back on Butte High. Ashlynne Copinga led off the seventh with a single up the middle. Tyler Fleury, however, pelted a soft liner that Tierney snared running to her left. Tierney then fired to Ossello at first base to catch Copinga off base for a double play. The Falcons regrouped and Briana Guse sizzled a double down the left-field line, then scored on a double that Nafts powered off of the left=field fence.
It was then that McClafferty got Ellis to fly out deep to Joseph, igniting the (Bull)dog pile.
“After the second game, I dolt them that this was what this was all about,” Stosich said. “If you win, you go to State. If you lose, you stay home.”
Ossello confirmed the girls chose going to the state tournament.
“We’re glad we’re going,” she said as the Bulldogs milled around the park with each other, other friends and family members — seeming not so anxious to leave the scene despite the rain and falling temperatures. “I was praying for some hits today. We all wanted to go and, after the second game, we just decided to try to do our own routine things.
“We knew we would get the last one.”
McClafferty struck out five batters and walked three.
All of the other Class AA playoff series are scheduled for Thursday. Outcomes will determine Butte High’s first round opponent at the state tourney.
The Bulldogs will take a 12-12 record to the state tourney. Skyview finished the season with a 10-14 mark.
Skyview 000 300 1 — 4 9 7
Butte High 010 433 x — 11 9 1
Shae Earley, Raegan Harper (5) and Kaylee Kannegiesser. Kaidy McClafferty and Emma Cox. W — McClafferty (10-8). L — Earley.
BILLINGS SKYVIEW (10-14) — Kaylee Kannegiesser 0-4, Ashlynne Copinga 1-3, Tyler Fleury 0-3, Briana Guse 1-4, Breezy Nafts 2-4, Jess Ellis 1-4, Abbey Bryan 1-3, Skyler Chartier 2-2, Madison Spoja 1-2, Madi McLean 0-1.
BUTTE HIGH (12-12) —Brittney Tierney 1-3, Brianna Ossello 1-2, Taylor Huff 1-4, Kaidy McClafferty 1-1, Jenna Walker 0-0, Katlyn O’Brien 1-1, Jenna Maroney 0-3, Kennedi Ferriter 1-3, Emma Cox 0-3, Trisha Ericson 0-0, Madison Joseph 3-3, Katelyn Alley 0-2.
Extra-base hits — 2B — Guse, Nafts, Ferriter. HR — Nafts, Huff (4), O’Brien (1).
Runs batted in — Skyview 3 (Nafts 2, Bryan 1), Butte High 8 (O’Brien 3, Huff 2, Joseph 2, McClafferty 1, Ferriter 1).