The Butte High softball team has some high hopes as it opens the 2014 season.
Butte High will take in its first action Saturday with four short games at the Great Falls Jamboree. The Bulldogs play their first game that counts Tuesday with a non-conference game at Missoula Big Sky.
“I expect big things this year,” Butte High coach Steve Stosich said.
The reason for the coach’s optimism rests in his six seniors. All six are projected starters.
“We have a great bunch of seniors,” Stosich said.
That group of seniors includes pitcher Jessica Robertson, who is entering her third season as the ace of the Bulldogs. Last season she picked up a second-team all-conference honor after posting 11 of Butte High’s 13 wins.
Robertson recently signed to pitch at Dawson Community College in Glendive.
“She’s an awful hard worker,” Stosich said, adding that his ace is “mentally tough.” “She does everything you ask her to do.”
The outfield will also feature three seniors. Per usual for the Bulldogs, it will also be a very fast outfield.
Ashton LaFond will play center, while Morgan Baley will play right and Kendal Alley will man left.
The other two senior starters will anchor the infield. Baylee Thatcher is back to start at third base, while Bobbie Osterman will start at first base.
Osterman will also be the No. 2 pitcher and see lots of time in the circle.
The middle of the infield isn’t set just yet. One thing that is for sure is it will include Ashten McCloskey, a second-team all-conference second baseman last season. McCloseky, who Stoisch said is the fastest player on the team, will start at second or shortstop this season.
Juniors Bethany McLean and Justyce Connole will be in the mix for the other infield spot. Connole will also play some outfield and could see some time at pitcher. McLean will likely play first when Osterman pitches.
Junior Maria Michelotti will again start at catcher.
“She’s a true competitor,” Stosich said of Michelotti, who was thrown into the fire behind the plate last year because of an injury. “I’d say she’s one of the best catchers in the state.”
Several other Bulldogs will contribute for Stosich, who is entering his ninth year as the head softball coach.
Juniors Amanda Spear, Ellie Hoffenbacker and McKenzie Joseph will also figure into the mix this season. Stosich said Spear could possibly be his leadoff hitter.
Stosich said sophomores Isabelle Bonney, Abby Burke and MacKensie Daily and freshmen Katelyn Alley, Alysha Daly, Rachel Driver, Cierra Fleming, McKenna Savage, Alyssa Walsh and Alexis Williams will be junior varsity players.
Stosich will again be assisted by his son, Ryan, along with Eric Mankins Corey Cutler, Steve Schulte and Mike Anderson. Kalli McCloskey is a new addition to the staff.
Butte High’s first conference game will by April 18 when the Bulldogs are scheduled to play host to Billings Skyview. Schedule
Butte High will also play Billings Senior that weekend. It will be a tough start to a tough conference.
“It’s going to be a bloodbath again,” Stosich said of the Eastern AA. “Last year was tough. This year will be tougher.”
Butte High has qualified for the Class AA state tournament in seven of Stosich’s eight years at the helm. The Bulldogs won the state title in 2011.
Last year, though, Butte High went two-and-out at state. That did not sit well with anyone on the team.
“I thought about it an awful lot,” Stosich said. “I know these seniors. It’s on their mind, too.”
So, the coach said, the Bulldogs will have a chip on their shoulders as they begin a season his players have been gearing up for all school year.
“This has been the best winter for us as far as kids showing up for open gym,” Stosich said. “We put a lot of time in, and it shows on the girls right now.”