By Bruce Sayler
The at-’em balls were not counted on being in Havre’s defensive system.
The unlucky Butte Central shots combined with Avery Carlson’s 4-for-4 performance batting out of Havre’s leadoff spot to push the Blue Ponies past the Maroons 6-3 Thursday in first-round play at the state Class A high school softball tournament.
The tourney will continue through Saturday at Stodden Park. The BC girls will resume at 9 a.m. on Friday in a loser-out game against Livingston. Lewistown outscored the Rangers 13-9 in a Thursday second-round game. Livingston toppled Columbia Falls 13-11 in Thursday’s first round. (Click here for a bracket, scores and stat sheets)
“We hit the ball hard,” Butte Central head coach Chunky Thatcher said. “Havre made the plays. We had some hard hits (in opportune situations), but didn’t get it done. We left too many runners on base. It’s baseball, or softball, the way the game is played. We played good enough to win, we just didn’t finish.”
The Maroons sure did start, though. Brooke Badovinac bashed the second pitch of the game over the center-field fence and BC had a 1-0 lead. It was one of the few BC belts that weren’t hit right “at-’em,” meaning Blue Pony fielders.
Havre tied the score in its half of the first was Carlson led off with a single, stole second and third bases, then got herself in a pickle between third and home. An errant throw allowed the Blue Pony sophomore center fielder to score in the rundown.
The Maroons went ahead again in the third inning as Sofee Thatcher whacked a one-out single to center field and came home on a double into short left field by Maddi Kump. Thatcher had stolen second base and traveled on to third when the throw sailed into the outfield. Kump’s high fly was chased by Alyssa Oliver coming in from left field. She appeared to turn an ankle and fell, lunging for the attempted catch. So, she was slow regaining her feet because of the injury and Kump got to second base. Oliver stayed in the game.
The Blue Ponies rallied to take the lead for good in the bottom of the third. Carlson was safe on an infield hit and stole second base, then moved on to third when Lizzie Haney put down a sacrifice bunt. Jocelyn Staples lifted a sacrifice fly that brought in Carlson with the tying run. Samantha Lovenguth, Quinn McDonald and Oliver chained three singles, Oliver’s knocking in Jersi Morse, who was the courtesy runner for Lovenguth. Her run put Havre ahead.
The Maroons looked like they might erupt for a big inning in the top of the fourth. Brenna Foley singled to right field to begin the frame and Maggie Stimatz ripped a base hit over Oliver’s head. Jaeden Berger was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs.
A strikeout followed and then a fielder’s choice got Foley gunned down at the plate. Another fielder’s choice ended the threat with BC scoring a run.
“We had the bases loaded up and our Nos. 1 and 2 hitters coming up,” Chunky Thatcher said. “My hat’s off to Havre. They made the plays.”
The Blue Ponies capitalized by plating a pair of runs in the last of the fourth.
Keylee Kline reached base on an error and Danni Wirtzberger drew a walk. Both ran home on a double by Carlson into the right-center field alley.
Butte Central tallied one in the sixth as Berger dumped a double behind third base in front of a diving Oliver with one out. Badovinac singled to center an out later to drive in Berger.
Havre got it back with a run in its half of the sixth. Kline clubbed a leadoff double to left field, then scored an out later on Carlson’s infield hit.
The BC girls threatened one more time, in their last at-bats in the top of the seventh. Mia Keeley worked a two-out walk and was batted to third base on a ground-rule double by Foley to right field. A strikeout stranded the runners.
Havre pitcher Lexi Evans finished with eight strikeouts and three walks in her complete game. Butte Central’s Maci Reopelle also went the distance, fanning seven hitters and issuing only two walks.
“The (BC girls) gave all they could and that’s all you can ask,” coach Thatcher said. “They played hard and played well.”
All teams remain in championship contention in the tournament’s true double-elimination format. To win it, Butte Central will have to win three games on Friday and three more on Saturday. Havre faced Laurel in a Thursday evening winners’ bracket semifinal game.
Badovinac’s home run and single led the Maroons’ nine-hit attack against Havre. Foley had a double and single while Kump and Berger each nailed a double, and Sofee Thatcher, Keeley and Stimatz each singled.
The game marked a return to the lineup for Sofee Thatcher, who has missed the past few weeks because of an illness. The junior played center field.
Butte Central 101 001 0 — 3 9 2
Havre 102 201 x — 6 10 3
Maci Reopelle and Mia Keeley. Lexi Evans and Samantha Lovenguth. W – Lexi Evans. L – Reoplelle.
BUTTE CENTRAL (13-10) — Brooke Badovinac 2-4, Sofee Thatcher 1-4, Maci Reopelle 0-4, Maddi Kump 1-4, Mya Keeley 1-2, Brenna Foley 2-4, Maggie Stimatz 1-3, Jaeden Berger 1-2, Kathryn Lalicker 0-2, Renee Creekmore 0-1.
HAVRE (15-4-1) – Avery Carlson 4-4, Lizzie Haney 0-3, Jocelyn Staples 0-3, Samantha Lovenguth 2-3, Jersi Morse 0-0, Quinn McDonald 1-3, Alyssa Olver 2-3, Lexi Haney 0-3, Keylee Kline 1-2, Danni Wirtzberger 0-1, Ellie Collins 0-1.
Extra-base hits – 2B – Kump, Berger, Foley, Carlson, Kline. HR – Badovinac.
Runs batted in – Butte Central 3 (Badovinac 2, Kump 1), Havre 5 (Carlson 2, Lizzi Haney 1, Staples 1, Oliver 1).