By Bruce Sayler
Strike zone, hitting zone, slugging zone — Butte Central was just plain zoned in against Lewistown Friday evening as the Maroons posted an 8-2 victory in the LaVerne Combo Invitational high school girls’ softball meet at Stodden Park.
The action continues Saturday with games at Stodden and Father Sheehan parks.
BC’s Friday night win saw ace pitcher Teresa Piazzola slug a home run and strike out eight batters in a four-hitter finished after five innings by the tournament time limit imposed. The win took Piazzola to 12-1 for the year and Butte Central to 13-2.
Kloie Thatcher rapped four hits in four trips to the plate — three of them on the hustle, ones she had to beat out because they never left the infield. Taylor Wahl continued her hot streak — hitting everything so fast and hard, low-flying sparrows better beware.
Still, the Maroons had to overcome a 2-0 deficit to win the game, and lit off a five-run last-inning eruption to secure it.
“They (the Maroons) did a great job of battling, a good job of not getting down on themselves after getting down two runs,” BC head coach Kelci Thatcher said. “
A hard wind blowing out welcomed Lewistown to the batters’ box to start the game and the Eagles took advantage. Mikayla Comes plopped a one-out base hit behind first base and then rode home on a flyball home run over the center-field fence Karlie Southworth hit. Lewistown had a 2-0 lead, but was held scoreless the rest of the way by Piazzola.
“They (the Eagles) were the first team to hit well off Teresa,” coach Thatcher said. “Teresa knew then (after the first inning) she had to really do a good job of keeping the ball down. She also had to adjust for strike calls. She did a great job.”
Butte Central tied the score with a run in each the second and third innings, then went ahead with one on the fourth. The Maroons scored in the second on back-to-back doubles by Piazzola and Wahl. In the third, Megan Michelotti hit a leadoff single, went to third on a base hit by Thatcher and a groundout, then scored on a sacrifice fly to deep center by Mollie Peoples.
The go-ahead run in the fourth saw the Maroons load the bases before Thatcher nicked the ball enough on a wicked swing to result in an accidental bunt. The surprised Eagles were unable to field it before Wahl, who had reached on a single, scored the run.
Catcher Corbyn Holm of the Maroons threw out two Lewistown baserunners trying to steal to keep the basepaths fairly clear of Eagles. The erasures helped set up the BC win.
It was clinched in the bottom of the fifth inning. Piazzola plastered a two-out homer over the right-field fence to ignite the surge. Wahl singled to right and took second base on a wild pitch. Kassidy Criscuolo doubled her home and then scored on a single by McKenzie Gallagher. Michelotti then belted a single to left field. The hit skipped past the fielder, letting Gallagher score and Michelotti advance to third. Thatcher then socked a base hit to left field that plated Michelotti.
Piazzola walked two batters in the win, supported by Wahl and Michelotti both going 3-for-3 at the dish.
“Our girls went to the plate with a plan and they executed it,” coach Thatcher said. “Overall, I couldn’t be happier. I’ve told the girls to play like it’s 0-0 to the very end.
“The last few games, they’ve hit very well. They know where they want to be in a few weeks and that every at-bat will help them get there.”
It hasn’t just been the hitting, though it certainly has been a valued commodity.
“Taylor hits the ball so hard, the defender doesn’t have a chance at it unless its right there,” the coach said. “She has the quickest hands and wrists of any player I’ve coached. She’s one of the ones who puts in the extra work.
“Teresa’s home run was huge for us, got us going. She did a good job, too, of not getting down after giving up those runs in the first inning. Our infield has been good, too, especially up the middle (where most groundballs go). And, the outfield has been making some great plays.”
Butte Central has games Saturday against Hardin at 10:45 a.m. and Belgrade at 2:15 p.m.
Lewistown 200 00x x — 2 4 1
Butte Central 011 15x x — 8 15 1
Carly Carpenter and Karlie Southworth. Teresa Piazzola and Corbyn Holm. W — Piazzola (12-1). L — Carpenter.
LEWISTOWN — Nora Weichel 0-1, Mikayla Comes 1-3, Karlie Southworth 1-2, Dani Gapay 0-2, Kinsey Irvin 1-2, Hannah Hayes 0-2, Val Kolstad 0-2, Ade Haller 1-2, Gracia Butlr 0-2.
BUTTE CENTRAL (13-2) — Kloie Thatcher 4-4, Shawnee Hjelt 1-4, Mollie Peoples 0-3, Corbyn Holm 0-3, Teresa Piazzola 2-2, Taylor Wahl 3-3, Kassidy Criscuolo 1-3, McKenzie Gallagher 1-3, Megan Michelotti 3-3.
Extra-base hits — 2B — Piazzola, Wahl, Criscuolo. HR — Southworth, Piazzola.
Runs batted in — Lewistown 2 (Southworth 2), Butte Central 7 (Thatcher 2, Peoples 1, Piazzola 1, Wahl 1, Criscuolo 1, Gallagher 1).