The Butte High Bulldogs were looking to compensate and, instead, received a bonus Saturday. They discovered they could play small ball and took a 7-2, 7-5 Eastern AA Conference high school girls’ softball doubleheader sweep over Billings Senior at Stodden Park.
An undetermined leg injury, suffered on Friday, took Baylee Thatcher and her power bat out of the lineup on Saturday. Thusly, with Thatcher relegated to watching on crutches, Butte High head coach Steve Stosich used more bunt and situational strategy than usual.
Power was still available, illustrated by Maria Michelotti’s two fence-clearing home runs and one each by Amanda Spear and Bobbie Osterman, but the added found options seemed to inject more confidence into the attack as everyone was involved, as needed.
Jessica Robertson pitched complete games to earn both victories and key defensive plays also helped limit the damage from Billings Senior.
“We couldn’t dwell on (Friday), but we knew we had to be good in all aspects today,” Robertson said, referring to the 7-5, 23-16 sweep at the hands of Billings Skyview at Stodden Park the day prior. “Beating Senior brings the confidence up a lot.”
The senior ace praised Michelotti’s efforts behind the plate and the play of “everybody on the field.”
Robertson struck out 17 batters in her 14 innings, and walked eight.
“I’m extremely happy,” Stosich said. “Jessie went 14 strong innings pitching against a good-hitting team. We hit the ball well and we got the timely hits we didn’t get (Friday). We hit some big home runs.
“We executed well in our bunt game. We executed some perfect bunts that forced Senior to make some mistakes.”
The Bulldogs dropped down five sacrifice bunts over the two games.
The coach noted Robertson pitched three games in two days without wearing out, and such endurance will be important in more conference and postseason play.
Thatcher was hurt stumbling over first base on the last play of Friday’s first game against Skyview. She was trying to beat out a throw from third base after hitting a two-out ground ball. If she’d won the race, Michelotti would have scored from third base on the play and the Bulldogs would have extended the inning and kept rally hopes alive. However, the try was gutsy, but not successful. Stosich said Thatcher’s ankle was too swollen Friday evening for an X-ray and so it would likely be Monday at soonest before seriousness of the injury is known.
The Broncs stranded 21 runners on the day, 13 of them in the first game. Butte High left 11 on base over the two games.
Butte High will play at Bozeman on Tuesday, then will return home for a pair of games on Thursday against Great Falls High at Stodden Park.
Butte High 7, Billings Senior 2
Butte High took a 1-0 lead when Michelotti lined a pitch from Senior’s Sarah Bonner over the left-field fence. The Broncs tied the score in the second on base hits by Kaelee Massey, Grace Ostermiller and Kristin Kaiser.
Bobbie Osterman walked to start the Butte High second and came home when the Broncs committed a throwing error after fielding Ashten McCloskey’s sacrifice bunt. The Bulldogs broke it open with a four-run third inning. Kendall Alley walked to start the uprising and Morgan Bagley doubled to left field. Amanda Spear cleared the bases with a shot over the right-field fence. Michelotti followed her with one over the left-field fence, her second solo home run of the game.
Senior tallied a run in the fourth as Sydney Norwood beat out an infield hit, went to second on a sacrifice, third on a wild pitch and home on a passed ball. The Bulldogs got a run in the fifth as Michelotti reached on a fielder’s choice and came home when Osterman’s flyball to left field was dropped.
Robertson and the Bulldogs muffled Senior threats all through the contest with tough pitching and important defensive moments. The Broncs left the bases loaded three times, including the seventh, when they had two runners on base via an error and a single without an error to start the seventh. Robertson struck out the next two batters, then gave up a base hit by Ostermiller to short left field, filling the bags.
Robertson then induced Norwood into grounding out to Justyce Connole at third base to end the game.
Connole played the position filling in for Thatcher and responded with some good plays. One saw her dive to smother a short liner at the hot corner and roll over to flip the ball to shortstop Bethany McLean, charging to the bag, for the forceout on a fielder’s choice. Connole’s regular center field spot was taken over by usual right fielder Ashton LaFond, and Morgan Bagley, who normally splits time with Alley as the left fielder, patrolled right field.
Robertson finished the game with 10 strikeouts and three walks. Bonner struck our four Bulldogs and walked two.
Billings Senior 010 100 0 — 2 10 2
Butte High 114 010 x — 7 6 1
Sarah Bonner and Kristin Kaiser. Jessica Robertson and Maria Michelotti. W — Robertson (3-3). L — Bonner.
BILLINGS SENIOR — Jeanann Lemelin 1-3, Kristin Kaiser 2-3, Brittanee Fisher 1-2, Sarah Bonner 0-3, Megan Olness 1-4, Anne Paine 0-0, McKenzie Morgan 0-4, Kaelee Massey 1-4, Grace Ostermiller 2-4, Sydney Norwood 2-4.
BUTTE HIGH (3-4, 1-1) — Morgan Bagley 1-4, Amanda Spear 1-2, Maria Michelotti 2-3, Bethany McLean 0-3, Bobbie Osterman 1-3, Ashton LaFond 0-2, Ashten McCloskey 1-2, Justyce Connole 0-2, Kendall Alley 0-2.
Extra-base hits — 2B — Bagley. HR — Michelotti 2, Spear.
Runs batted in — Billings Senior 1 (Kaiser), Butte High 5 (Spear 3, Michelotti 2).
Butte High 7, Billings Senior 5
Jessica Robertson had to weather and snuff a Billings Senior rally in the bottom of the seventh inning to complete the sweep. Both games counted in the Eastern AA standings, so the Broncs batted in the home half of the innings in the second game. Butte High, therefore, will not play any road games at Billings Senior this regular season.
The Broncs were behind by 7-4 going into the last of the seventh. Kristin Kaiser singled to lead off for Senior before Robertson recorded two straight outs on popups. Megan Olness, however, the singled to center and McKenzie Morgan delivered Kaiser home with a base hit to center field. Robertson then got Anna Paine on a called third strike to end the twin bill.
The second game started with Butte High grabbing a 2-0 edge without the benefit of a hit. Morgan Bagley led off by drawing a walk and then Amanda Spear was hit by a pitch. Bagley scored and Spear went to third base as the Broncs erred on a ball batted by Michelortti. After an out, Spear scored on a wild pitch.
Billings Senior tied the score in the bottom of the first when Brittanee Fisher singled, Sarah Bonner doubled and Olness singled, all with two out.
Butte High broke the tie in the third inning as Michelotti reached on an infield hit, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Bethany McLean and came home on a single by Osterman. The Bulldogs added a run in the fourth in similar small-ball fashion. Justyce Connole was hit by a pitch to start the inning, but was erased at second base as Ellie Hoffenbacker hit into a fielder’s choice. Bagley’s sacrifice bunt moved Hoffenbacker to second base and then Hoffenbacker scored when Spear spanked a single to center field.
Butte High improved its lead to 5-2 in the fifth inning on a solo home run by Bobbie Osterman that traveled over the center field fence.
The Broncs pulled to within 5-4 with two runs in the fifth frame. Kaiser drew a one-out walk and Brittanee Fisher singled. One out later, Olness walked to load the bases. Morgan then knocked in two runs with a base hit to left field.
The Bulldogs put two more runs on the scoreboard in the sixth inning. Kendall Alley walked, stole second and gained thired base on a single by Bagley. An error off a ball batted by Spear scored Alley. Bagley reached second base on the play and went to third on a groundout, before scoring on a groundout by McLean.
Robertson got the win with seven strikeouts and issued five walks. Bonner struck out four and walked four.
Butte High 201 112 0 — 7 9 2
Billings Senior 200 020 1 — 5 8 3
Jessica Robertson and Maria Michelotti. Sarah Bonner and Kristin Kaiser. W — Robertson (4-3). L — Bonner.
BUTTE HIGH (4-4, 2-1) — Morgan Bagley 2-2, Amanda Spear 1-3, Maria Michelotti 1-4, Bethany McLean 0-3, Bobbie Osterman 2-3, Ashton LaFond 1-3, Ashten McCloskey 0-3, Justyce Connole 1-3, Kendall Alley 0-2, Ellie Hoffenbacker 0-1.
BILLINGS SENIOR — Jeanann Lemelin 0-4, Kristin Kaiser 1-3, Brittanee Fisher 2-4, Sarah Bonner 1-4, Megan Olness 2-3, McKenzie Morgan 2-4, Anna Paine 0-3, Grace Ostermiller 1-2, Sydney Norwood 0-2.
Extra-base hits — 2B — Bonner. HR — Osterman.
Runs batted in — Butte High 4 (Osterman 2, Spear 1, McLean 1), Billings Senior 5 (Morgan 3, Bonner 1, Olness 1).