Bulldogs optimistic as softball season opens

Bulldogs optimistic as softball season opens
Butte High teammates greet Jordyn Bolton after the Bulldog junior belted a solo home run in the first game of a doubleheader April 9, 2021 in Belgrade. (Photo courtesy Dan Chesnet, The Belgrade News)

Butte High heads to CMR Friday, plays at home Saturday

By Bill Foley

Butte High’s softball roster consist of just 21 players.

That is the smallest Bulldog team since coach Ryan Stosich first joined the program as an assistant in 2006.

It does not, however, mean that Stosich, who is entering his eighth season as head coach, is not excited with the names on that roster. The Bulldogs begin the 2022 season with a bunch of questions. They also have a lot of reason for optimism.

“We’re liking what we’re seeing,” Stosich said, adding that he thinks his team will be “in the mix” in the Western AA. (Schedule; Roster)

Stosich’s squad will take the field for the first time at 5 p.m. Friday against Great Falls Russell in Great Falls. Butte High will then play its home opener at 1:45 p.m. Saturday against Great Falls High at Stodden Park.

Both the opening weekend games are non-conference affairs. After playing a home doubleheader against defending Class AA State champion Belgrade on Tuesday, the Bulldogs open the Western AA schedule at home against Helena Capital Friday, April 8.

Butte High was hit hard by graduation last season, losing seven seniors. The Bulldogs, though, bring back some serious talent.

That includes senior Jordyn Bolton, who took home first-team all-conference and All-State honors as designated hitter/designated player las season. Butte High also returns speedy leadoff hitter and shortstop Kodie Hoagland, who earned a second-team all-conference nod last season.

Junior Rian Ferriter, who is fresh off a winter season that saw her play basketball and wrestle, returns to the pitcher’s circle after receiving an all-conference honorable mention.

Senior Joscelyn Cleveland brings back a ton of varsity experience for Butte High. The roster also includes a newcomer in senior Shanti Berkopec.

Juniors on the Bulldog roster include Bryn Godbout, Brooke Groesbeck, Maddi Jonart, Cami Kautzman and Kiahna Wetzel. The team has five sophomores in Taylor Drakos, Dacelyn Lafond, Kamber Leary, Ashby Lee and Natalie Lynch.

Gracie Ferriter, Ashlinn Mullaney, Sophie Radcliffe, Hailey Skeel, Brityn Stewart and Madisyn Swanson are promising freshmen for the Bulldogs.

Stosich said he is not sure what his lineup will look like. He is not yet sure which players will start.

“There’s a lot of competition going on,” Stosich said. “There’s a lot of inexperience on this team. There’s a lot of newcomers.”

While the roster number is low, the number of pitchers on it is high.

Injuries forced Ferriter to step up a year ago to pitch for the Bulldogs in a pinch.

“She’s a tough pitcher,” Stosich said. “We saw that last year. I don’t know where we would have been without her.”

Godbout, Leary, Lee and Mullaney are also pitching prospects for Butte High.

“We had 32 open gyms, and most of them were at every one of them,” Stosich said of his pitchers. “That’s two times a week since November.”

Coaches assisting Stosich are his father Steve Stosich, Eric Mankins, Kelly Ferriter, Steve Schulte and Travis Johnson.

Butte High is looking for its first trip to the Class AA State tournament since 2018. The Bulldogs were cheated by rain in 2019 and by the pandemic in 2020.

This year, the top six teams from each conference will advance to a 12-team State tournament, which is May 26-28 in Missoula. There will be no playoffs and no divisional tournament. The teams that place seventh and eighth in the conference will miss out on the postseason.

That is thanks to a proposal brought up by Stosich and the Bulldogs.

“We like the idea of everything riding on the season,” Stosich said.

Another change this season has nothing to do with the Bulldogs. A Title IX complaint pushed the Class AA to play its junior varsity games at a separate time from the varsity games.

In previous years, the Class AA teams played doubleheaders almost exclusively. Tuesday’s date with Belgrade is the only double dip of the season for Butte High.

The rest of the time, the Bulldogs will play single seven-inning games, with the junior varsity playing before the varsity.

The schedule includes a midseason crossover tournament in Great Falls. That will pit Western AA teams against Eastern AA teams, though details on the April 30 schedule have not been released.

For now, Stosich’s focus is on the Bulldogs. The coach said he expects the team to get better and better as the season goes on.

“I’m seeing a lot of hard work,” he said. “Right now we’re working on fundamentals. It’s a growing process.”

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