The Butte Central and Butte High softball teams will go title hunting this weekend.
That hunts begin Thursday when the Maroons and Bulldogs will open their respective State tournaments.
BC will take on Livingston at 11 a.m. on Field No. 2 at the Charlotte Yeoman-Martin Complex in Anaconda. The Bulldogs play Missoula Big Sky at 4 p.m. on Field No. 4 at the Fort Missoula Softball Complex in Missoula. (Class AA bracket; Class A bracket)
Butte High’s games will be covered live on KBOW (550 AM, 101.5 FM, online).
Other first round games pit Kalispell Glacier against Great Falls High; Billings West against Helena Capital; and Great Falls Russell against Helena High.
The Bulldogs are the No. 3 seed from the Eastern AA after last week’s best-of-three playoff series victory over Billings Senior at Stodden Park.
Butte High takes a 13-11 overall record to the tournament, and the Bulldogs are eye-ing their first State title since 2011.
Freshman pitcher Kaidy McClafferty (11-8) got the decision in all three games against Senior. She took a 2.86 ERA into the post season.
Maria Michelotti and Justyce Connole each hit a pair of home runs in the playoff series, giving Connole five on the season and Michelotti 4.
Senior Tristan Walks belted a first-inning grand slam in Game 3, while senior Ashten McCloskey hit a bomb in the opener.
With their season and Bulldog career on the line, Connole and Michelotti each smacked seven hits in the series. McCloskey roped six. Walks, senior Amanda Spear and freshman Kennedi Ferriter each added four hits.
The Bulldogs played Big Sky, the No. 2 seed from the Western AA. The Eagles won 5-0 behind a 12-strikeout effort by Macey Newbary, who surrendered just one hit.
The Eagles were runners up at last year’s State tournament. The game will be the only one of the day for the Bulldogs.
The Maroons are hoping to play two games in the opening day of the Class A tournament.
A win over Livingston would send the Maroons to a 3 p.m. clash with defending champion Frenchtown and future Ohio State pitcher Morgan Ray.
First, though, the Maroons have to take care of business against the Rangers. BC traveled to Livingston to beat the Rangers 7-3.
Teresa Piazzola returned from injury and struck out 11 Rangers in 5 and 2/3 innings in that win on April 22.
Piazzola has again returned from injury in time to give the Maroons a solid 1-2 punch in the pitcher’s circle along with fellow junior McKenzie Gallagher.
The Maroons (14-9 overall) went 2-1 at the Southwestern A Divisional tournament in Hamilton. BC beat Stevensville 10-0 on Friday, highlighted by doubles by Kloie Thatcher, Mollie Peoples and Gallagher.
Piazzola struck out nine in five innings in the win.
A BC rally fell just short in Saturday’s 9-8 semifinal loss. Thatcher homered to highlight a comeback that started with a 9-4 deficit.
BC battled back to knock off Anaconda to secure second place, winning 2-1 on a Emily St. John walk-off single. The winning hit drove in Shawnee Hjelt, who returned from injury in time for the post season.
That game was called after five innings because of rain. BC, which won the regular-season title with an 8-2 record, didn’t get a chance to play Hamilton again in the double-elimination tournament.
Polson will take on Anaconda at 11 a.m. for the right to play Billings Central at 3 p.m. At 1 p.m., Laurel will play Libby with the winner taking on Belgrade, while Havre and Miles City will play for the right to take on Hamilton.
The Maroons, who don’t have a senior on the roster, are looking for their first State title since 2000, when BC went 26-0 for the second straight year.