Belgrade cools off Maroons in LaVerne tilt

Mother Nature and Belgrade pitcher Shania Neubauer both cooled the Butte Central bats Friday, in their own ways.
Belgrade bested the Maroons 5-2 in the evening round of games at the annual LaVerne Combo Memorial high school girls’ softball tournament being played this weekend in Stodden Park. Neubauer limited BC to five hits in the six-inning game played under the tournament time limit. Nature, in the form of a sometimes staunch wind, held up some of the higher flying hits Butte Central swatted and turned them into outs. More than anything, though, the end result was because of how well the Panthers played.
“Hit for hit, I think we hit the ball as well as they did,” Kelci Thatcher, head coach of the Maroons, said. “We just didn’t find the gaps like they did and some of ours got hung up with the wind. But they’re a great team.”
One inning was the difference. Belgrade plated four of its runs in the third to erase a 1-0 BC edge that had come in the first on a run-scoring double by Mollie Peoples after Kloie Thatcher had singled and gone to second on Emily St. John’s first of two sacrifice bunts.
No. 9 hitter Maddie Cade launched the Panthers’ third inning with a single to right field and took third base on a base hit into the right-center field gap by Skylar Neubauer. Neubauer stole second and both runners rode home on a double by Judy Taylor. Left fielder Desaray Blunt rolled her ankle charging the hit and was unable to return the ball to the infield, doing so in obvious pain, until Taylor had reached second base and Neubauer scored. Blunt had to be helped off the field and was replaced in the outfield by Teresa Piazzola.
One-out later, Hannah Goulet pounded a home run well over the left-field fence.
Each team added a run in the fifth frame. Jordan Branch singled to lead off the Belgrade fifth, advanced to second on a fly ball and scored on a base hit up the middle by Ty Atwood. The Maroons answered in their half with a round-the-bases romp by Thatcher. She drew a walk, took second on a groundout, stole third base and continued home when the throw bounced away from the third baseman.
McKenzie Gallagher pitched the first four innings by BC and Piazzola finished. Both Gallagher and Piazzola made tough catches in their stints in left field as the wind played havoc with the fly balls. Gallagher’s was right against the fence, preventing a second home run by Goulet.
Pitching, Gallagher walked two batters and struck out two. She gave up six hits. Piazzola yielded four hits, struck out two batters and did not walk any.
Thatcher played a good all-around game with two tough infield catches at shortstop and her pressuring the Belgrade on the basepaths while scoring both Butte Central runs.
“I think we’re clicking,” Coach Thatcher, a cousin to the shortstop, said. “We made one mental error baserunning, but, otherwise, played pretty well.”
The Maroons lost two runners in the early going, one in each of the first two innings. One was on a throw to the plate as a BC runner tried to score from second on a single to center. The other was when a Butte Central player tried to advance first to third on a teammate’s sacrifice bunt and was caught pulling into the station.
The injury to Blunt put the Maroons’ roster at 10 players, Kelci Thatcher said. However, if Shawnee Hjelt passes her concussion test on Monday, she will hopefully be available for next week’s Southwestern A Divisional tournament, the coach said. Hjelt was hurt last weekend.
Shania Neubauer struck out three batters and walked three in pitching the Belgrade win. Her sister, Skylar the leadoff-hitting right fielder, led the offense with a 3-for-4 game. Thatcher and Peoples each two hits for Butte Central.
The tournament continues Saturday and the Maroons have two games on the docket — versus Whitefish at 12:30 p.m. and against Lewistown at 4. All BC games are scheduled for Field No. 3 at Stodden Park.

Belgrade 004 010 x — 5 11 1
Butte Central 100 010 x — 2 5 1
Shania Neubauer and Kindall Bethke. McKenzie Gallagher, Teresa Piazzola (5) and Corbyn Holm. W — Neubauer. L — Gallagher.
BELGRADE — Skylar Neubauer 3-4, Judy Taylor 2-3, Jordan Branch 2-3, Hannah Goulet 1-3, Kindall Bethke 1-3, Ty Atwood 1-2, Shania Neubauer 0-2, Nickie Shatesch 0-3, Annie Cox 0-0, Maddie Cade 1-3.
BUTTE CENTRAL (10-8) — Kloie Thatcher 2-2, Emily St. John 0-1, Mollie Peoples 2-3, Taylor Wahl 0-2, Desaray Blunt 0-0, Teresa Piazzola 0-2, Corbyn Holm 1-3, Megan Michelotti 0-3, Cassidy Criscuolo 0-1, McKenzie Gallagher 0-2.
Extra-base hits — 2B — Branch, Taylor, Peoples. HR — Goulet.
Runs batted in — Belgrade 5 (Taylor 2, Goulet 2, Atwood 1), Butte Central 1 (Peoples).