Bulldog softball team just looking to get outside

Bulldog softball team just looking to get outside
Butte High's MacKenzie Tutty leads off second base during a Bulldog win over Bozeman in this April 19, 2018 Butte Sports file photo.

By Bruce Sayler

Snow was beginning to fall again this extended winter on Wednesday night while head coach Ryan Stosich was pleading the need for the Butte High Bulldogs to get outdoors, on the softball field before the schedule runs into the thick part of the season.

The Bulldogs haven’t practiced a day yet this year due to the snowy grounds of The Mining City. The season was slated to begin this weekend with the Great Falls Jamboree, but Great Falls, like Butte and so many other Montana communities has not yet been able to dig its diamonds out of the frost.

It’s probable, too, that next week’s home games for Butte High scheduled against Belgrade and Missoula Big Sky will also be casualties of the conditions. However, school officials in Butte and Missoula were talking about putting together some kind of competition in Missoula for probably Saturday — so teams that at least get in some pitches, swings and throws. A get-together in Billings is another, though slight, possibility for the weekend.

Stosich is hoping there’s thunda in the tundra. He likes the promise.

“We need to get on the field, it’s important we get on the field,” he reiterated, looking at his fifth season as Bulldog head coach and 14th overall on the staff. “The county’s doing what it can to get our fields ready and Jim Street was plowing off some of it. They’re all doing what they can to get us on the field.”

Street, the longtime, now retired, wrestling coach at Butte High, helped with equipment.

The Bulldogs are coming off an 18-8 2018 season in which they went 1-2 at the State AA tournament. Butte High graduated eight players off the team, including seven starters, and so the coaches need to look at candidates to fill some vacancies. Most teams in the state are in similar situations.

A good nucleus returns with three seniors, and another returning starters along with some other players with limited varsity experience. Senior third baseman Brittney Tierney and senior shortstop Taylor Huff, both entering their fourth year in the starting lineup, lead the returnees. Tierney earned Eastern AA All-Conference second-team honors while batting .400 and playing a terrific third base last year. Huff batted .405 and led Class AA in the regular season with nine home runs and 42 runs batted in over 23 games.

“We lost eight good seniors, but, in the same breath, Butte has a good tradition in softball and fills those spots,” Stosich said.

Sophomore McCaul McClafferty has the hottest spot to fill as she takes over for four-year No. 1 pitcher Kaidy McClafferty, now windmilling with success for the Bemidji State college program in Minnesota.

“What Kaidy did for us for four years, has never had to be done before,” Stosich said, alluding to her being the ace and under the pressure of such her entire high school career. “I think McCaul and Maddie Skeel feel confident and we’ll see when the ball falls what happens.”

McCarthy backed McClafferty and Katlyn O’Brien, who also graduated, last year, seeing a little varsity duty as a freshman. Skeel is also a sophomore and is in the No. 2 role.

The other senior in the program is Jaden Cleveland, who saw varsity time last year as a reserve. She would seem ticketed to start at first base or as the designated player this season. She was a valuable bat off the bench last year and also was used often as a courtesy runner.

Sophomore Trisha Ericson is the other returning starter. She was the left fielder as a sophomore last year, and may be back there again. Though, she could also play in center field and has been practicing at catcher, as well.

Stosich said the competition for starting spots has been spirited and most jobs are yet to be nailed down.

Juniors Makenna Carpenter and Bradie Lester also played some varsity last year as did sophomores Aubree Corcoran and MacKenzie Tutty. Carpenter is competing to start at second base, as is Lester who is also in the battle for catcher. Tutty, too, is a catcher possibility, but more likely headed to the outfield to play. Corcoran, too, is a top contender to start in the outfield.

Juniors Maire Ingersoll and Cameron LaFond and sophomore Jaycee Burke are also pushing to start in the outfield. Sophomore Dylan Duffy is also a candidate at catcher and freshman Kodie Hoagland could see varsity time at second base.

Sophomore Mia Antonioli is a good hitting prospect and joins sophomore Sammi Phillips and freshmen Jordyn Bolton, Izabella Carpenter, McKenzie Case, Joselyn Cleveland and Olivia Phillips others in the competition for playing time.

Stosich said 23 players turned out for the team this spring.

The team has been working out inside at Butte High and said he feels “really confident” about the prospects for the season.

The Bulldogs last won a state championship in 2011, when they practiced inside for 36 days before weather and conditions relented enough to let them outside to play. The title was one of 11 appearances in the last 13 years for Butte High at the state softball tournament. The first nine years in the span saw the team under the direction of Steve Stosich, dad of the current coach and who helps his son as an assistant in reciprocation. Ryan Stosich was a top assistant for his dad before taking the reins.

The Stosiches are joined on the staff by assistants Eric Mankins, Kelly Ferriter, Steve Schulte and Mike Anderson. All but one are longtime members of the staff. Ferriter joined it this year, replacing Travis Johnson, who is now the principal at Kennedy Elementary School. Ferriter has a strong background as a Butte coach in the Amateur Softball Association traveling-team summer program.

“I appreciate all those guys and what they do,” Ryan Stosich said.

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