The Butte High Bulldogs are returning to the state Class AA high school softball tournament thanks to as good of a daylong team effort as their coaches could have hoped for when Friday broke.
Butte High went toe-to-toe with Billings Senior in a best-of-three set at Stodden Park played in wind, a bit of rain and even occasional sunshine. The Bulldogs won 6-1 in the first game, lost 13-9 in the second and then busted the Broncs 18-6 in the third to nab advancement to the state tourney.
“The girls made me look pretty smart sometimes,” commented first-year Butte High head coach Ryan Stosich about how it seemed almost all of the pinch runners he inserted scored and the pinch hitters hit. “It really was pretty much a team effort. Everyone contributed.”
The Bulldogs will take a 13-11 record to the state tourney slated for May 21-23 at the Fort Missoula Sports Complex in Missoula. Butte HIgh is scheduled to open on May 21 at 4 p.m. against Missoula Big Sky.
Butte High played one of its best all-around games in the winning the first game, then seemed to suffer a letdown and Billings Senior capitalized to even the series. The Bulldogs needed to regroup for contest that determined which would go to State and which would stow the gear until next year.
“Before the second game we were really confident we had it even though (the Broncs) lost by not that much of a deficit,” Butte HIgh senior catcher and leader Maria Michelotti said. “We knew then they were going to fight for it, too.”
The Bulldogs answered the wakeup call.
“We told (the Bulldogs) that if we eliminated those errors and hit the ball, we’d be fine,” Stosich said. “(Pitcher) Katlyn O’Brien did a good job coming into that second game and giving Kaidy (McClafferty) the break she needed. We just didn’t give her a lot of hitting or defensive support.
“Justyce Connole had a great day. She was on fire. Tristan Walks hit the big grand slam and Maria had a big home run. And, Kaidy is one tough freshman. She’s even a better kid.”
Connole, the senior center fielder, hit 5-for-10 for the day with two home runs, two doubles and four runs batted in. She also executed the first big play of the day on which there were several. The first hitter of the game, Billings Senior leadoff batter Peyton Meyer swatted a long fly ball to dead center field. Connole leaped and made the catch while tumbling backwards over the top of the fence to rob Meyer of the home run. It was the day’s first out instead of its first run.
“Us seniors, we haven’t been to State that much,” Michelotti commented later, but the quote described the attitude the Bulldogs brought to the park. They wanted to go.
Michelotti doubled her longball total by clubbing one in each the first two games. She hadn’t any any this year until about two weeks ago. She caught every pitch of the tripleheader, continuing the rugged pace on which she has performed all spring.
“It was tiring, but but it’s not as bad as pitching that many games,” Michelotti said. “I can’t believe Kaidy is just a freshman. She’s better than most of the pitchers in our conference.’
McClafferty started all three games, coming out the winning pitcher in two and being charged with the loss in the other. She will take a 11-8 record to the state tourney. For the day, she had 18 strikeouts against six walks.
McClafferty pitched the distance in the first game, about half of the second and went the route in the third, which was ended in the fifth inning by the 10-run difference rule.
“We were surprised that Kaidy showed fatigue in the second game,” Stosich said. “We hadn’t seen that. Then we were thinking we would’ve liked to have had another day to rest her. We just didn’t know until today really how long she could go.”
McClafferty pitched complete games in both halves of a twin bill loss to Eastern AA Conference champion Great Falls C.M. Russell on Monday before taking to the circle Friday.
“Now, we have until Thursday to rest her,” Stosich said.
Butte High 6, Billings Senior 1
Butte High’s first batter, senior second baseman Ashten McCloskey, put the first run on the scoreboard with an inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the first inning. She looped a fly ball behind third base and the ball spun away from the fielders as it headed for the fence along the side. By the time it was recovered, the speedy McCloskey had raced around the bases.
The Bulldogs added two more home runs before the inning ended. Michelotti slugged a one-out solo shot way over right-center field, then, one-out later, Bethany McLean drew a walk and rode in on Connole’s homer over center field as Butte High grabbed an early 4-0 advantage.
McClafferty and Billings Senior ace Sarah Bonner then dueled for three scoreless innings before both teams tallied in the fifth. Camille Castles singled to center to lead off the Broncs’ fifth. One out later, she ran home in on a throwing error after Sydney Norwood put down a sacrifice bunt.
The Bulldogs answered in their half as McCloskey reached base on catcher’s interference, took second on Kennedi Ferriter’s sacrifice bunt, third on a groundout by Michelotti and scored on a passed ball.
The last run was scored in the bottom of the sixth inning. Katelyn Alley reached on a two-out error and Jenna Walker was sent in to run for her. Walker took second on a passed ball, then dashed home as pinch hitter Ellie Hoffenbacker singled to center field.
Connole had a diving catch in center field on another outstanding play in the fifth inning and Michelotti made a great play on a fouled bunt behind her in the sixth to help keep Broncs off the bases.
Billings Senior 000 010 0 — 1 6 2
Butte High 400 011 x — 6 6 2
Sarah Bonner and Payton Meyer. Kaidy McClafferty and Maria Michelotti. W — McClafferty (10-7). L — Bonner.
BILLINGS SENIOR (7-15) — Payton Meyer 0-4, Sydney Norwood 0-3, Sarah Bonner 0-3, Brittanee Fisher 0-3, Grace Ostermiller 3-3, Anna Paine 1-2, Allyssa Treglown 1-3, Kristen McCarthy 0-3, Courtney Bad Bear 0-0, Camille Castles 1-3.
BUTTE HIGH (12-10) — Ashten McCloskey 1-3, Kennedi Ferriter 1-2, Maria Michlotti 1-3, Amanda Spear 0-3, Bethany McLean 1-2, Justyce Connole 1-3, Katelyn Alley 0-2, Jenna Walker 0-0, Isabelle Bonney 0-2, Ellie Hoffenbacker 1-1, Tristan Walks 1-3.
Extra-base hits — HR — McCloskey (3), Michelotti (3), Connole (4).
Runs batted in — Billings Senior 0, Butte High 5 (Connole 2, McCloskey 1, Michelotti 1, Hoffenbacker 1).
Billings Senior 13, Butte High 9
Butte High’s 2-0 early lead disappeared in a four-run Billings Senior second frame and the Bulldogs were not able to catch up again in Game Two.
The Bulldogs scored in the first inning on back-to-back doubles by Ferriter and Michelotti, then added a run in the second as Connole cleared the right-field fence with a leadoff big flyball.
A walk to Brittanee Fisher, single by hot-hitting Grace Ostermiller and a sacrifice bunt by Anna Paine set up a run-scoring single by Alyssa Treglown for Billings Senior in the second. ONe out later, Ostermiller tied the score by sprinting home on a wild pitch. Camille Castles drove in Treglown with a double for the Broncs’ first lead of the day, then scored on a double by Meyer.
Butte High bounced back to tie the score at 4-all in the top of the third. Amanda Spear smacked a one-out single to right field and continued on to second when the ball was bobbled in the outfield. McLean singled her in, then scored on a double by Connole into the left-center field gap.
The Broncs broke the score right away in their next at-bat. Fisher walloped a home run well over the left-field fence to start her team’s half of the inning. Paine reached on a one-out walk and walks to Treglown and Kristen McCarthy loaded the bases. Castles brought in Paine with a sacrifice fly before McClafferty got out of the jam. Billings Senior led 6-4.
The Broncs scored a run in the fourth and two in the fifth for a 9-4 advantage. Treglown drove in Fisher with a single in the fourth after Fisher had knocked a base hit and advanced on an error. Tristan Walks’ sliding catch of a flyball in right field prevented further damage by Billings Senior in the inning.
In the fifth though, Norwood hit a one-out single and Bonner was hit by a pitch. Both advanced a base on Fisher’s groundout and both scored on a single up the middle by Ostermiller.
Still, Butte High roared back and tied the score 9-all with a five-run sixth inning. Connole and Alley singled to start the inning. One out later, Walks singled to load the bases. McCloskey singled to right and the hit was fumbled in the outfield. Two runs scored on the play. After another out, Michelotti mashed a three-run homer over the left-field fence.
Billings Senior applied the clinching runs in its part of the sixth with a four-run outburst. Treglown started off with a ground-rule double and Castles laced a one-out seeing-eye single through the left side. Two runs scored as Meyer singled to right and the ball got loose in the outfield. Meyer scored on a wild pitch. A single by Norwood and walks to Bonner and Fisher filled the bags before Norwood came home on a groundout to third by Ostermiller.
Butte High 112 005 0 — 9 12 5
Billings Senior 042 124 x — 13 14 2
Kaidy McClafferty, Katlyn O’Brien (4) and Maria Michelotti. Sarah Bonner, Sydney Norwood (7) and Payton Meyer, Sarah Bonner (7). W — Bonner. L — McClafferty (10-8).
BUTTE HIGH (12-11) — Ashten McCloskey 1-4, Kennedi Ferriter 2-4, Maria Michelotti 2-4, Jenna Walker 0-0, Amanda Spear 1-3, Bethany McLean 1-4, Justyce Connole 3-4, Katelyn Alley 1-3, Ellie Hoffenbacker 0-1, Isabelle Bonney 0-3, Madison Joseph 0-1, Tristan Walks 1-2, Brianna Ossello 0-0.
BILLINGS SENIOR (8-15) — Payton Meyer 3-5, Sydney Norwood 2-5, Sarah Bonner 0-3, Brittanee Fisher 2-3, Grace Ostermiller 2-5, Anna Paine 0-4, Allyssa Treglown 3-3, Kristen McCarthy 0-3, Courtney Bad Bear 0-0, Camille Castles 2-3.
Extra-base hits — 2B — Castles, Meyer, Treglown, Ferriter, Michelotti, Connole. HR — Fisher, Connole (5), Michelotti (4).
Runs batted in — Butte High 8 (Michelotti 4, Connole 2, McCloskey 1, McLean 1), Billings Senior 11 (Meyer 3, Ostermiller 3, Treglown 2, Castles 2, Fisher 1).
Butte High 18, Billings Senior 6
Butte High erupted early on the way to its two-touchdown victory that lifted the Bulldogs into the state tournament.
McClafferty returned to the circle and struck out two of Billings Senior’s four batters in the first inning to hold the Broncs off the scoreboard. The Bulldogs backed her with seven runs when they got to the batter’s box in the bottom of the frame.
McCloskey feathered a bunt single on which she reached second due to a throwing error on the play. One out later, Michelotti singled to center and McCloskey scored. Butte High led the rest of the way.
Walker went in as a courtesy runner for Michelotti and sped to third base on a single to center by Spear. McLean hit into a fielder’s choice that plated Walker but erased Spear at second base. Connole followed with a ground-rule double and then Alley walked to pack the sacks. McLean dashed home on a wild pitch before Isabelle Bonney walked to reload the bases. Walks then smashed a line drive you could hang out your wash on over the left-field fence for a grand slam. Fisher was summoned to relieve Norwood at pitcher for the Broncs, but Butte High had gained a 7-0 command through the first inning.
Billings Senior got four of the runs back in the top of the second. Ostermiller led off with a double down the third-base line and went to third on a wild pitch. Treglown knocked her in with a one-out single. One out later, Castles drew a base on balls before Meyer clubbed a three-run homer over left field.
Michelotti singled in the Butte HIgh half of the second and Walker replaced her on the basepaths. Two wild pitches allowed Walker to motor to third base. Spear then singled her home. Spear went on to third base on a wild pitch and passed ball, then scored on a groundout by McLean. The Bulldogs held a 9-4 lead.
Butte High exploded for nine runs and an 18-4 cushion in the bottom of the fourth. Michelotti again started it with a base hit and gave way on the basepaths to courtesy runner Walker. Spear was hit by a pitch. McLean tapped a bunt for a sacrifice, but the throw to first was dropped and Walker scored. Spear and McLean each moved up a base on a wild pitch. Hoffenbacker looped a Texas League single behind third base to bat in Spear. Pinch hitter Abby Burke belted a single to center and McLean came home. Walks poked a single through the right side that evaded the outfielders. Hoffenbacker and Burke both scored. McCloskey beat out an infield hit to go 4-for-4 for the game.
One out later, the Broncs decided to issue Michelotti an intentional walk. However, the third pitch in the series was wild and Walks scored from third base. The intentional walk continued. McCloskey then raced home on a wild pitch as Spear was receiving a base on balls.
Bonner came in to spell Fisher and she gave up a two-run ground-rule double to McLean.
Billings Senior needed to score four runs in the fifth to keep the game going, but could muster only two. Singles by Meyer and Bonner and a walk to Fisher filled the bags with one out. Ostermiller grounded out to second as one run scored and Bonner ran home on a wild pitch.
McClafferty caught Paine looking at strike three and the playoff series was over.
Billings Senior 040 02x x — 6 5 4
Butte High 720 9xx x — 18 15 4
Sydney Norwood, Brittanee Fisher (1), Sarah Bonner (4) and Sarah Bonner, Payton Meyer (4). Kaidy McClafferty and Maria Michelotti. W — McClafferty (11-8). L — Norwood.
BILLINGS SENIOR (8-16) — Payton Meyer 2-3, Sydney Norwood 0-3, Sarah Bonner 1-3, Brittanee Fisher 0-2, Grace Ostermiller 1-3, Anna Paine 0-3, Allyssa Treglown 1-2, Kristen McCarthy 0-2, Courtney Bad Bear 0-0, Camille Castles 0-1.
BUTTE HIGH (13-11) — Ashten McCloskey 4-4, Kennedi Ferriter 0-4, Maria Michelotti 3-3, Jenna Walker 0-0, Amanda Spear 2-2, Bethany McLean 1-3, Justyce Connole 1-3, Katelyn Alley 0-2, Ellie Hoffenbacker 1-1, Isabelle Bonney 0-1, Abby Burke 1-1, Tristan Walks 2-3.
Extra-base hits — 2B — Ostermiller, Connole, McLean. HR — Meyer, Walks (3)-GS.
Runs batted in — Billings Senior 5 (Meyer 3, Treglown 1, Ostermiller 1), Butte High 13 (Walks 5, McLean 4, Michelotti 1, Spear 1, Hoffenbacker 1, Burke 1).