By Bruce Sayler
The 90-minute time limit thwarted Butte Central again — or, maybe it was clutch Missoula Loyola play.
Either way, the last round of 2019’s edition of the LaVerne Combo Invitational high school softball tournament saw Missoula Loyola hold on for a 5-4 win over Butte Central at Stodden Park. The game lasted five innings. (Tournament scores)
The Loyola-Sacred Heart Breakers had a 5-2 advantage after a four-run fifth inning. The Maroons made the late afternoon more interesting though with a two-run home run by Cassidy Strizic in the bottom of the frame. Doherty was aboard via a one-out single into right-center field. Emma Keeley’s right-side groundout moved Doherty to second base. Strizic then clouted her high fly ball that carried well over the center-field fence. Loyola avoided further damage, though, when Maci Reopelle flyball was caught.
The umpires then called an end to the game because of the tournament time rule.
Butte Central finished the tournament 1-2-1, including a tie and loss on Saturday. The Maroons tied Havre 4-all earlier in the day in another five-inning test ended by the time limit.
“I was proud,” BC head coach Kelci Thatcher said regarding her team’s comeback efforts through the day, including the bottom-of-the-fifth showing in the loss to Loyola. “I’m excited. The girls played pretty well. We played much better defensively than we had been and I felt all 12 girls got better.
“I thought Maci (Reopelle) pitched a really good game against Havre and I thought ‘Johnny’ (Makala Doherty) did against Loyola.”
The teams dueled through two scoreless innings until the Breakers snared a 1-0 edge. Molly McHugh hit a one-out single to right field that skipped by the fielder and allowed the runner to reach second base. McHugh eventually scored on a wild pitch.
Butte Central leapfrogged to a 2-1 edge in the bottom of the fourth. Strizic ripped a leadoff single to center field, took second base on a wild pitch, stole third and was driven in by Reopelle with a single. Reopelle’s hit traveled to left field and she got to second base on the late throw in from the outfield. Madison Kump’s slow grounder let Reopelle reach third base. Loyola tried to pick Reopelle off third base, but the throw was errant and Reopelle scored the go-ahead run.
The Class B-C power Breakers, though, made up for it with their big fifth inning. McHugh lined a hot single over first base to start the frame. Hellie Baddarudin bunted her over to second base on a sacrifice. McKenna Bessette singled to center and stole second base. Kayla Hickethier dropped a Texas League single behind first base and spun into foul territory. McHugh scored on the hit. Carly Tipp sent a sacrifice fly into right field that brought in Bessette with the go-ahead run. Emily Hermes drew a walk and Morgan Hall singled to load the bases. Violet White Grass then belted a base hit up the middle that drove in Hickethier and Hermes. BC pitcher Makala Doherty struck out Stephanie Radcliffe to end the inning.
Class A member Butte Central then built its two-run rally before time expired a run short.
The pitching of Doherty and Reopelle on the day was a plus for the Maroons’ defense, Thatcher said. It kept the BC focuses in and on the game and made for a more fun experience, the coach said.
“Good things happen when you can play relaxed,” she said. “It’s fun. They really stuck to their roles and stepped up on defense.”
The team seems to be gelling late in what has been a short a regular season. The Maroons have been picking each other up and fed more off each’s successes this tournament. Coach Thatcher said the girls are achieving a new comfort level and performing their roles.
“Cassidy Strizic has had a big second half of the season,” Thatcher said. “She’s really become a vocal leader, too. She gets that from having played with older kids the past couple of years and now she is one of the older kids.
“I think (the Maroons) are starting to believe they’re a good team. Having competitive games was huge for them. It was a great weekend for softball and for Butte. We had great weather.”
The BC girls are 3-11-1 for the season and will finish the spring with two Southwestern A Conference games this week — at Dillon on Tuesday before closing at home against Stevensville next Saturday. Butte Central is 1-7 in conference play.
Missoula Loyola 001 004 x x — 5 9 1
Butte Central 000 22o xx — 4 7 3
Kayla Hickethier and Carly Tipp. Makala Doherty and Emma Keeley. W — Hickethier. L — M. Doherty.
MISSOULA LOYOLA —Molly McHugh 2-3, Hellie Bedaruddin 0-2, McKenna Bessette 1-3, Kayla Hickethier 2-3, Carly Tipp 1-3, Emily Hermes 0-2, Morgan Hall 2-3, Violet White Grass 1-3, Stephanie Radcliffe 0-3, Michaela Deschamps 0-0.
BUTTE CENTRAL (3-11-1) —Sofee Thatcher 1-3, Zoe Doherty 1-3, Emma Keeley 1-3, Cassidy Strizic 2-3, Maci Reopelle 1-3, Madison Kump 0-2, Makala Doherty 0-2, Brenna Foley 1-1, Gracie Wall 0-0, Lexis Earles 0-2.
Extra-base hits — HR —Strizic.
Runs batted in —Loyola 4 (White Grass 2, Hickethier 1, Tipp 1), BC 3 (Strizic 2, Reopelle 1).