Bulldog return to State begins with Skyview

Bulldog return to State begins with Skyview
Butte High shortstop Kodie Hoagland goes to her right to backhand a hard shot April 26 at Stodden Park. (Butte Sports file photo)

Butte High making first appearance since 2018

It has been too long for the Butte High softball team.

In 2019, a complete rain out of the Easter AA Divisional tournament prevented the Bulldogs from playing in the Class AA State tournament in Butte. In 2020, COVID was the culprit.

Last season, well, things just did not go Butte High’s way at the Western AA Divisional tournament in Helena.

On Thursday, the Bulldogs are officially back. They open the State tournament against Billings Skyview at 11 a.m. on Field 1 at the Fort Missoula Softball Complex in Missoula. (Bracket)

The winner advances to play Billings Senior, the beast from the East, at 3:30 p.m. Senior received a first-round bye after winning the Eastern AA regular-season title.

Butte High enters as the No. 4 seed out of the Western AA. The top six teams from each conference qualified for the tournament.

Butte High completed the regular season at 9-11 overall and 7-7 in conference. At 8-12 and 5-8, Skyview is the No. 5 seed from the East.

The right arm of freshman pitcher Ashlinn Mullaney and the speed of senior leadoff hitter Kodie Hoagland have led the Bulldogs back to State.

Hoagland, who is ticked for yet another All-State nod at shortstop, will take a .600 batting average to Missoula. That includes six doubles, two triples and 29 runs scored in Butte High’s 20 games.

Mullaney emerged as the Bulldog top pitcher early in the season. She struck out 76 and walked 26 in 92 and a third innings. She posted a 4.835 ERA and a 6-5 record.

As a team, coach Ryan Stosich’s Bulldogs batted .343 on the regular season.

Rian Ferriter, a junior who plays first base and pitches, is hitting .387 with three home runs, and Mullaney is batting .377 with five bombs.

Regular varsity players Kamber Leary (.354), Dacelyn Lafond (.308) and Jordyn Bolton (.308) also carry averages greater than .300. Bolton, though, is a question mark to play after injuring her shoulder off the field.

Bolton smacked three home runs. Leary, a sophomore, and freshman Brityn Stewart also hit home runs for the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs enter the season playing solid defense, with Leary at third and junior Bryn Godbout holding down second. Stewart, Lafond, a sophomore, and senior Jascelyn Cleveland give Butte High a solid outfield.

Butte High posted a 16-6 record in junior varsity play, and the Bulldogs intertwined their JV and varsity lineup. So, their roster is deep and experienced.

Senior Shanti Berkopec, whose took one for the team in her lone varsity plate appearance, joins Bolton, Cleveland and Hoagland as seniors on the Butte High team.

Juniors Maddi Jonart, Cami Kautzman and Kiahna Wetzel have all been contributors. So have sophomores Ashby Lee and Nataleie Lynch, and frehsmen Graice Ferriter, Sophie Radcliffe, Hailey Skeel and Madisyn Swanson.

Stosich can call on any player at any time, and he just might need to this week.

Stosich is assisted by his father Steve, Eric Mankins, Kelly Ferriter, Steve Schulte and Travis Johnson.

The loser of the Butte-Skyview game will head to Friday’s loser-out play. Great Falls Russell takes on Kalispell Glacier in the other 11 a.m. game.

At 1 p.m., defending champion Belgrade battles Missoula Big Sky, and Helena High takes on Great Falls High. Missoula Sentinel, Helena Capital and Billings West join Senior with byes.

Senior enters the tournament at 19-3, while West is 20-2. The Broncs, though, went 13-1 in conference to edge the Bears by one game. Belgrade is 15-6, and CMR is 12-6-1.  Capital enters at 17-3 after posting a 14-0 conference mark. Sentinel is 14-7, Helena is 10-9-1, Big Sky is 8-12, and Glacier is 11-9.

The Bulldogs are looking for their first title since they won it all in Billings in 2011.

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