By Bruce Sayler
It was Butte High’s best home softball the Bulldogs have played this season. Forget the last-inning implosion.
Eastern AA Conference opponent Billings West swept Butte High 6-5 and 14-5 Friday in a windy, chilly, drizzly doubleheader at Stodden Park. Only the first game counted in the league standings. The nightcap was nonconference.
“Overall, it was a pretty good day,” Ryan Stosich, head coach of the Bulldogs, said, remembering 13 innings of errorless defense, his team’s 28 hits over two tilts, better and courageous pitching by sophomores McCaul McCarthy and Madison Skeel and more confidence and common purpose exuded by the entire Butte High bunch. “Game one was shoulda, woulda, coulda. We could’ve easily won that game. We didn’t get the timely hits in the early innings. McCaul pitched well and our defense was good.
“In the seventh game, we imploded in the last inning. Errors are contagious.”
The Bulldogs got a home run in each game despite the stiff wind. McCarthy skyed one over the left-field fence in game one and Taylor Huff slugged one over center field in the second.
Butte High center fielder MacKenzie Tutty was injured in the first game, trying to rob Billings West’s Sydney Nelson of a three-run homer in the fifth inning. Tutty backed into the fence, tangled in it and was flipped over it by the impact. She injured her left shoulder. After a delay of a few minutes, she continued playing and recorded the last out of the top of the fifth with a catch. However, when she was to lead off the Butte High half of the inning at the plate, it was found she couldn’t swing a bat and had to abandon her spot in the lineup. Stosich said he doesn’t not know how long the Bulldogs will be without the sophomore center fielder and leadoff hitter.
Butte High also almost lost its No. 2 pitcher when Skeel was clobbered by a line drive off the bat of Morgan Stoppel to start the third inning of the second game. The screamer hit Skeel in the hands as she tried to fend it off and defend her face. Still, the liner glanced up into her facemask, knocking it off and sending the pitcher to the ground.
However, looking dazed, she picked herself up off the deck, shook the cobwebs and then went back to battling the Golden Bears all the way to the end of the game.;
“Maddie’s a really tough kid,” Stosich said. “She sucked it up and did a really good job. I didn’t know if she was going to make it.”
Skeel’s resolve kept Stosich from trying to solve the problem of who would’ve been her replacement. McCarthy was already icing down her arm after her first-game performance and Tutty, the No. 3 hurler, was unavailable because of the shoulder injury.
The losses dropped Butte High’s records to 0-5 in Eastern AA play and 1-9 overall. The Bulldogs are to be home against Billings Senior at noon on Saturday in a doubleheader at Stodden Park with both games counting in the conference standings.
Billings West is 11-2 for the season, 5-2 in conference and travels to Great Falls on Saturday to play C.M. Russell in a twin bill.
“We’re trying to fight through it,” Stosich said about the young team’s growing pains and accompanying adversity.
Billings West 6, Butte High 5
Butte High almost pulled off a huge rally. The Bulldogs trailed 6-0 until the bottom of the seventh inning when they rallied for seven runs. Billings West finally ended it with Stoppel’s diving catch of MaKenna Carpenter’s looper near second base for the last out of the game.
The well-played game, completed without any errors by either team, saw the Golden Bears and Bulldogs hold each other scoreless until Billings West tallied a run in the top of the fourth inning. Winning pitcher Deven Creech led off the inning with a double to right field and Emma Balsam was inserted as a courtesy runner. After McCarthy struck out the next batter, McKinsey Matthews drew a walk. Nelson then nailed a single to left field to knock in Balsam.
The Golden Bears erupted for five runs in the fifth inning, three scoring on Nelson’s homer on the play on which Tutty was injured. Stoppel tripled in a run earlier in the inning and then scored when Kinzee Koch successfully drew a throw while going to second base on a pitch. Koch was out on the throw by Butte High catcher Brittney Tierney.
The Golden Bears, though, had their 7-0 bulge.
The Bulldogs left runners in scoring position in the first three innings as well as the sixth before coming to bat in their half of the seventh.
McCarthy had just set Billings West down in order two innings in a row and set the comeback tone. Freshman Kodie Hoagland slapped a single to left field to start the Butte High half of the frame. After an out, Bradie Lester and Tierney worked walks to load the bases. Huff ripped a two-run double to left field and then Tierney scored on a groundout by Trisha Ericson as Butte HIgh narrowed the gap to 6-3.
With Huff standing on second base, McCarthy launched her home run with two out and brought the scored to 6-5. However, the diving catch by Stoppel on Carpenter’s flyball snuffed the rally.
Creech struck out seven in picking up the win. Billings West gathered eight walks and was out-hit by the Bulldogs, 10-7.
Billings West 000 150 0 — 6 7 0
Butte High 000 000 5 — 5 10 0
Deven Creech and McKinsey Matthews. McCaul McCarthy and Brittney Tierney. W — Creech. L — McCarthy ((1-6).
BILLINGS WEST (10-2, 5-2) — Lauren Blaschak 1-3, Morgan Stoppel 1-4, Kinzee Koch 0-2, Deven Creech 2-4, Emma Balsam 0-0, Halle Spring 0-4, McKinsey Matthews 1-3, Marleigh Nieto 0-0, Sydney Nelson 2-2, Chloe Nelson 0-2, Shea Dolan 0-2.
BUTTE HIGH (1-8, 0-5) — MacKenzie Tutty 0-2, Cameron LaFond 0-2, Bradie Lester 1-3, Brittney Tierney 1-3, Taylor Huff 2-3, Trisha Ericson 1-4, McCaul McCarthy 2-4, Jaden Cleveland 0-3, MaKenna Carpenter 0-1, Aubree Corcoran 1-2, Kodie Hoagland 2-3.
Extra-base hits — 2B — Creech, Tierney, Huff 2. 3B — Stoppel. HR –– S. Nelson (2), McCarthy (1).
Runs batted in — West 5 (S. Nelson 4, Stoppel 1), Butte 5 (Huff 2, McCarthy 2, Ericson 1).
Billings West 14, Butte High 5
Butte High took two leads in this game before succumbing to its own miscues in the final inning. Billings West led first — and last –, however. Kinzee Koch was the winning pitcher and helped herself greatly with three hits, three runs batted in and handcuffed Butte High batters with 10 strikeouts.
Her single in the first scored the first run of the game and she came home on a sacrifice fly by Emma Balsam as the Golden Bears went ahead 2-0 before the Bulldogs came to bat.
Butte High made up for it quickly though with three runs in the first. Kodie Hoagland led off with a double to left field and Bradie Lester, who enjoyed a good day at the plate, drew a walk. Huff, one out later, clubbed her home run and the Bulldogs had a 3-2 edge.
Billings West caught up in the third. Stoppel reached on her line shot that momentarily felled Skeel then was erased from the basepaths as Koch hit into a fielder’s choice. Balsam singled to center and then Halle Spring filled the bags with a base hit to left field. Koch dashed home while Chloe Nelson hit into a force play.
The Bulldogs retook the lead in their half of the third. Hoagland beat out an infield hit. Tierney worked a walk between two outs and then Aubree Corcoran sent a base hit into left field. It skipped past the fielder and Hoagland scored.
The Golden Bears took the lead for good with a three-run fifth inning. They stroked four hits in the frame, including Chloe Nelson’s run-scoring single and Marleigh Nieto’s two-run double. Billings West had a 6-4 advantage.
Butte High put its first two batters of the fifth on base, advanced them to scoring position with a double steal after a flyout and stranded them there on a popup and strikeout. The Bulldogs stranded two more runs in a sixth inning that ended on a strikeout and comebacker.
Then, the defense unraveled. The Golden Bears plated eight runs in the top of the seventh inning on six hits and four Butte High errors to grow a 6-4 edge into a 14-4 command.,
Chloie Nelson and Avery Martin both pounded doubles, Martin plating two runs with hers, and Koch knocked in a pair of runs with a single. Stoppel and Spring both lofted sacrifice flies to tally runs and two others came home on errors.
The four errors the Bulldogs committed in the inning were their only ones for the day.
The Bulldogs tried to rally in their last at-bats. Tierney and Huff both reached on infield hits with one out. An out later, Trisha Ericson poked a single into right field and Tierney ran home. But, Koch was able to strand two Bulldogs on base while recording the last out.
Billings West 201 030 8 — 14 17 3
Butte High 301 000 1 — 5 8 4
Kinzee Koch and Avery Martin. Madison Skeel and Trisha Ericson. W — Koch. L — Skeel (0-3).
BILLINGS WEST (11-2) — Lauren Blaschak 0-5, Morgan Stoppel 2-4, Kinzee Koch 3-4, Emma Balsam 1-3, Halle Spring 4-4, Chloe Nelson 2-5, Avery Martin 2-4, Marleigh Nieto 2-4, Carrie Carpenter 1-4.
BUTTE HIGH (1-9) — Kodie Hoagland 2-4, Bradie Lester 1-3, Brittney Tierney 1-3, Taylor Huff 2-4, Aubree Corcoran 1-4, Trisha Ericson 2-3, Jaden Cleveland 0-4, MaKenna Carpenter 0-3, Jaycee Burke 0-3.
Extra-base hits — 2B — Nieto, C. Nelson, Martin, Hoagland. HR — Huff (2).
Runs batted in —West 12 (Koch 3, C. Nelson 2, Martin 2, Nieto 2, Stoppel 1, Balsam 1, Spring 1), Butte 4 (Huff 3, Ericson 1).