Bengals cash chances, belt Butte High

By Bruce Sayler

Every Helena High run scored with two outs.
Junior pitcher Faith Howard tossed a three-hitter with 12 strikeouts and only one walk as the Bengals beat Butte High 8-1 Tuesday in a Western AA Conference high school softball game at Stodden Park.
Senior shortstop Ashley Koenig drove in four runs, two on a seventh-inning home run, and senior center fielder Katryn Seliskar pelted two doubles among her three hits in leading the Helena High offense.
“Our three mistakes turned into six runs (for the Bengals) and their three resulted in one run (for Butte High),” lamented Ryan Stosich, head coach of the Bulldogs. “We have got to quit shooting ourselves in the foot and start capitalizing on their mistakes.”
Howard and Butte ace Ashlinn Mullaney were locked in a pitcher’s duel through three innings, Helena High having grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the third. The run had scored on an error.
In the top of the fourth, the Bengals broke through with five runs, starting with the rally with a leadoff runner on base and two outs. Howard helped herself with a double in the inning, and Koenig belted a two-run single. Catcher Kamryn Klemp, shortstop Kylee Gardipee and left fielder Keira Campbell also poked run-scoring hits as Helena High sent 10 batters to the plate. Two Butte High errors extended the Bengals’ life in the inning. The explosion gave Helena High a 6-0 command.
The Bengals were able to chain a series of singles that found their way through the infield or were ground balls batters beat out for hits. They also found good fortune in a popup near the plate that landed fair and caromed away from the defense for an unusual double. Their best connections was a line drive to the outfield that Bulldog Taylor Drakos grabbed in left to end the uprising.
The Bulldogs scored their only run in the bottom of the sixth, it, too, with two outs. Junior third baseman Kamber Leary reached on a one-out error. She stole second base during a strikeout and then rode home on sophomore right fielder Mattie Stepan’s double into the right-center field gap. A popup then ended the inning.
The Bengals then tallied their last two runs in the seventh as Seliskar stroked a double down the third-base line into the left-field corner, then strolled home on Koenig’s blast over the center-field fence.
Howard set Butte High down in order in the bottom of the seventh.
“I felt it was one of the better games Ashlinn pitched for us,” Stosich said of Mullaney’s eight strikeouts and one walk issued in her seven-inning stint. “But, we kept giving them extra outs.”
The game was played in the cold with temperatures in the 30s and intermittent snow blowing across the diamond.
Howard pitched the Bengals into the state Class AA tournament championship game last year in capping a good season. She is in her third year in the circle for Helena High. Glacier defeated the Bengals 19-7 for the AA title last spring.
“She’s a good pitcher,” Stosich credited, noting a “really good curveball” that broke outside in her control, combined with change-of-speed expertise and spot accuracy. Her teammates supported her Tuesday with 14 hits, all but two in the first four innings.
Junior catcher Gracie Ferriter and junior first baseman Madisyn Swanson notched singles for Butte High. The loss dropped the Bulldogs to 2-10 for the season, 1-7 in conference play. Helena High moved to 5-8 and 2-5. Butte High is to play at Helena Capital on Thursday in its next game.
Helena High 001 500 2 – 8 14 3
Butte High 000 001 0 – 1 3 3
Faith Howard and Kamryn Klemp. Ashlinn Mullaney and Gracie Ferriter. W – Howard. L – Mullaney (1-9).
HELENA HIGH (5-8, 2-5) – Katryn Seliskar 3-5, Ashley Koenig 3-5, Kamryn Klemp 2-5, Dakota Lieberg 0-0, Kylee Gardipee 2-3, Keira Campbell 2-4, Faith Howard 2-4, Haleigh Tavary 0-0, Charlie Smith 0-4, Kelleigh McKay 0-4, Rylie Schlepp 0-3.
BUTTE HIGH (2-10, 1-7) – Gracier Ferriter 1-3, Reese Johnson 0-0, Ashlinn Mullaney 0-3, Kamber Leary 0-3, Madisyn Swanson 1-3, Mattie Stepan 1-3, Gracie Jonart 0-3, Allie Decker 0-0, Ashby Lee 0-3, Taylor Drakos 0-2, Hailey Skeel 0-1, Dacelyn LaFond 0-2.
Extra-base hits – 2B – Howard, Seliskar 2, Stepan. HR – Koenig.
Runs batted in – Helena 7 (Koenig 4, Klemp 1, Gardipee 1, Campbell 1), Butte High 1 (Stepan).