BC softball heading to Bitterroot for rain-threatened divisional

The Butte Central softball team is one win away from advancing to the Class A State tournament, which is May 21-23 in Anaconda.

Or, the Maroons might have already qualified for State. That is entirely up to Mother Nature.

Butte Central won the Southwestern A regular-season title, and the Maroons have a first-round bye in the divisional tournament, which is scheduled to be played Friday and Saturday in Hamilton. Bracket

The key word there is “scheduled.”

The top three teams from the tournament will secure a spot in the State tournament. If the event is rained out — which is certainly a decent possibility given the wet weather in the forecast — the top three teams in regular-season standings would move on.

That would mean BC, Hamilton and Anaconda would get the nod.

That contingency plan was put into place when the conference elected to go a divisional tournament before last season.

Butte Central, though, isn’t looking for an easy way to State. The Maroons (12-8 overall) are looking to do the work on their own.

BC has good reason to be confident hitting the road because the team has been rolling as of late, winning its last five conference games to capture the regular-season crown.

Junior pitcher Teresa Piazzola has returned to the team, giving the Maroons two proven pitchers heading into the post season.

Piazzola, who will be limited to three or maybe four innings at a time because of a recurring injury to her lower back, pitched 40 and a third innings this season. She struck out 66 batters.

Classmate McKenzie Gallagher has carried the team much of the season. She has been much better than her 6-7 record, posting a 3.04 ERA. She struck out nearly a batter per inning, fanning 72 in 78 and a third innings.

Freshman Kloie Thatcher also started three games for the Maroons, going 3-1, to give BC three viable weapons in the pitcher’s circle.

The slick-fielding Thatcher, who moved from center field to shortstop to solidify the infield late in the season, is a major weapon at the plate, too. She is batting a team-leading .431.

Junior first baseman Mollie Peoples and Gallagher are tied for the team lead with 14 RBIs, while five players in total are batting better than .300. Sophomore center fielder Emily St. John takes a .379 batting average in to the post season. Sophomore second baseman Taylor Wahl is hitting .352, while junior outfielder Shawnee Hjelt is hitting .348, freshman third baseman Megan Michelotti his batting .310.

Peoples is hitting .296 after a late-season surge, and sophomore catcher Corbyn Holm is batting .282.

As a team, the Maroons are batting an impressive .319.

Freshman Kassidy Criscuolo has emerged as a trustworthy outfielder late in the season. That came in handy seeing that the Maroons were without Hjelt the last six games because of an injury.

Hjelt has been cleared to play this weekend, but BC coach Kelci Thatcher said she isn’t sure what to expect from a player who has been a spark plug for the Maroons for three seasons.

The Maroons’ first scheduled game is at 4 p.m. They’ll play the winner of the 1 p.m. game between Stevensville and Dillon.

BC swept Stevi and split with Dillon in the regular season.

A BC win in the 4 p.m. game would guarantee the Maroons at least third place and a spot on the bracket at State.

Hamilton is the No. 2 seed. The Broncs await the winner of Friday’s game between Corvallis and Anaconda. That game is also at 1 p.m.

The Maroons, who don’t have a senior on the roster, are looking for their first State title since they went undefeated in back-to-back seasons in 1999 and 2000.

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