Central doubles up Rangers to close tourney at 3-1

By Bruce Sayler

 Butte Central stretched its lineup back to the top in time for a big inning while defeating Livingston 6-3 Saturday in a Class A non-conference high school girls’ softball game. 

The game was ended in the middle of the sixth inning via time limit, a rule within the annual Butte Central LaVerne Combo Invitational tournament at Stodden Park. Following tradition, poor weather accompanied the tournament. Rain and wind hampered players and spectators Saturday afternoon. 

The Maroons trailed Livingston 3-2 prior to batting in the bottom of the fifth inning. Senior first baseman Maggie Stimatz led it off by working a walk. One out later, the top of the inning came up in junior pitcher Hattie Mehring, who lashed a single to left field. Senior center fielder Sofee Thatcher walked to load the bases for junior shortstop Brooke Badovinac. She dropped a double into short right-center field unreachable for fielders fooled a little bit by the hit being blunted by the wind. Stimatz scored the tying run and Mehring followed her across the plate with the go-ahead run. 

Thatcher and Badovinac then scored on consecutive wild pitches and Butte Central had its 6-3 advantage. 

Mehring worked her way around a one-out walk in the top of the sixth to retire the Rangers on a popup to herself and a fielder’s choice force play at second base, Badovinac to Brenna Foley. Umpires signaled the game had reached its tournament time limit and Mehring had her first varsity win as a Maroon pitcher. 

“We got the hit with the lineup getting back to the top,” BC head coach Chunky Thatcher said, then noted the second-inning home run junior third baseman Jaeden Berger slugged. “It was her first. She can hit the ball, but she’d been too spread apart in her stance. Had to tighten that stance up to balance it. The home run put a smile on her face.’ 

The homer launched the Butte Central half of the second and traveled on a line over the left-field fence, outracing the Livingston fielder to the rail. 

The Rangers grabbed a 1-0 edge in the top of the first when first batter Emily Jesson was hit by a pitch, went to second on a walk to Taylor Young, third on a flyout and home on a groundout. 

Berger tied the score in the second with her swat and the Rangers got out of further trouble by expertly executing an unusual double play. Foley singled to left and ran all the way to third base on the play on a bad throw. A strikeout later, a dropped third strike resulted in a throwout at first base and a return throw to the plate to get the baserunner trying to score for the third out. 

Livingston retook the lead in the third with a run. Jesson crashed a one-out double to left field, went to third on Young’s infield hit and scored on a wild pitch. 

The Maroons answered with a run to tie the score at 2-all when Thatcher drew a two-out walk, stole second base and was driven in by Badovinac with a single to left field. 

The Rangers gained their last lead in the top of the fifth. Marissa Taylor belted a double to right field, took third on a passed ball and sprinted home on a wild pitch. It gave her team the 3-2 lead BC wiped out later in the inning. 

“I’m not riding them,” coach Thatcher said when it was noted the Maroons seemed more relaxed in the win over Livingston than in the more pressurized tilts with Southwestern A Conference opponents the day before. “We’re going to stay positive. They are tough on themselves, though.  

“I tell them ‘I don’t care if you strike out. But, if you do strike out, be taking a whack at it. Don’t just stand there a look at it.’ “ 

Badovinac knocked in three runs while batting 3-for-3 with two doubles to lead the BC offense. Berger had her home run, and Mehring and Foley each singled. Thatcher scored two runs to encore a fielding gem in Friday night’s loss to Frenchtown in which she did the splits on a diving catch of a short flyball. 

Mehring allowed only five hits, gave up four walks and struck out four batters in a steady performance. 

Butte Central went 3-1 in the two-day tournament to stand at 6-10 for the season. The Maroons face their last week of the regular season with two must-win conference games to qualify for state, Chunky Thatcher said. They are to play at East Helena Tuesday in a 7:30 p.m. game under the lights, then will close with a home game on Friday versus Stevensville. 

“We have to put two wins together this week to reach State,” Thatcher said. “Anything can happen. A horse with 80-1 odds just won the Kentucky Derby.” 

Livingston                  101   010   x 3  5  2
Butte Central             011   04x   x
6  6  0
Ava Malone and Marissa Taylor. Hattie Mehring and Mia Keeley. W – Mehring. L –Malonoe.
LIVINGSTON — Emily Jesson 1-3, Taylor Young 1-2, Marissa Taylor 1-3, Ava Malone 0-3, Erika Haines 0-0, Kenna Benzel 1-2, Tess Goosey 0-1, Emily Prather 0-1, Kaylee Roberts 0-1, Maddie Johnson 0-1, Addyson Norquist 0-0, Irie O’Dea 0-1.
BUTTE CENTRAL (6-10) — Hattie Mehring 1-3, Sofee Thatcher 0-2, Brooke Badovinac 3-3, Mia Keeley 0-3, Jaeden Berger 1-3, Brenna Foley 1-2, Renee Creekmore 0-2, Maggie Stimatz 0-1, Cloe Stillwagon 0-2.
Extra-base hits – 2B – Jesson, Taylor, Badovinac 2. HR — Berger.
Runs batted in – Livingston 1 (Malone), Butte Central 4 (Badovinac 3, Berger 1).