Going almost 10 days without playing a game might have explained rust Monday on what had been a shiny Butte High softball defense. Or, maybe the rips C.M. Russell of Great Falls was scalding through the infield were just too hot to handle.
A good-hitting Russell squad swept Butte High 11-2 and 5-1 at Stodden Park to finish the regular season for the Eastern AA Conference for both teams. The sweep allowed CMR to capture the Eastern AA’s top seed and automatic bye to the nearing state Class AA tournament, media reports said, via tiebreaker over defending champion Billings West.
Butte High will be home later this week against Billings Senior or Bozeman in a best-of-three series to determine one of the other spots in the state tournament. The series will likely be attempted Thursday or Friday, depending on the weather, forecasts for which are not promising for softball.
Butte High suffered 10 errors in the twin bill Monday, a Senior Parents Day event that was also a makeup of a doubleheader moved from last Thursday because of predicted bad weather. The action was the first the Bulldogs had seen since a sweep at Billings Skyview the Friday before.
“We had some defensive miscues that we’re not used to,” Butte High head coach Ryan Stosich said. “CMR hits the ball hard and makes you make plays, and they’re not easy plays to make.
“They’re a great program. The nine days off might have had something to do with (the Butte High errors), but we have to shore up some things on defense. Competition is usually the best remedy.”
Freshman Kaidy McClafferty went the distance pitching both games for Butte High. She seemed to actually strengthen as the day proceeded.
“We didn’t think she had her best stuff in the first game,” Stosich said. “She was improved in the second.”
All seven seniors on the team started the first game and were honored between games. They were catcher Maria Michelotti, first baseman Ellie Hoffenbacker, second baseman Ashten McCloskey, third baseman Bethany McLean, center fielder Justyce Connole, right fielder Tristan Walks and designated player Amanda Spear.
Even though it was a tough day, Stosich found positives for his team in their meeting after the games.
“I told them they should be proud,” he said. “They went 8-and-4 in conference. We had a helluva pitcher (current Dawson Community College ace Jessica Robertson) and we weren’t 8-and-4 last year. We were 8-and-4 the year (2011) we won the state championship, were tied with West (going into the playoffs) and they won the tiebreaker because they’d beaten us twice.”
Butte High finished this regular season in third place with the 8-4 record and was 11-10 overall. Russell and West both went 11-1 in league play, splitting the games between them.
Great Falls Russell 11, Butte High 2
Russell didn’t score until the third inning and then steadily built on its lead until a five-run explosion in the seventh put the game away. The Rustlers loaded the bases to start the third as Caitlin Soltesz reached on a slap hit deep into the shortstop hole and beat the throw, Savannah Voyles singled to center and Laura Poitra was hit by a pitch. Myla Robbins singled Soltesz home. CMR stranded three runners as McClafferty got the next three batters out, Courtney Schroeder a flyball to left field with Katelyn Alley pegging a throw home that kept Voyles on third base. McClafferty got opposing pitcher Quinn Hartman on strikes and then shortstop Kenndi Ferriter gloved a scorcher by Katie Huisman on a nice diving play, flipping the ball to McCloskey for the force at second.
Soltesz singled with two out in the fourth inning and scored on a double by Voyles. Poitra reached on an error that scored Voyles. Soltesz reached on an error to start the sixth inning, moved to third on a Voyles single and Poitra sacrifice, and rode home on a base hit by Robbins. Courtney Schroeder lifted a sacrifice fly to bring in Voyles.
Butte High scored both of its runs in the bottom of the sixth. Michelotti singled to left and took second on a bobble in the outfield. Jenna Walker came in to run for her. Amanda Spear was hit by a pitch. Two outs later, Walker and Madison Joseph, running for Spear, both scored on an errant throw.
CMR applied the clincher in the seventh. Huisman and Tori Marcum drew walks and Soltesz delivered a one-out, run-scoring single. Voyles reached on an error to load the bases. Poitra was hit by a pitch that forced Marcum home with a run. Schroeder’s infield hit scored Soltesz. A booted groundball in the infield then let both Voyles and Poitra cross the plate.
McClafferty struck out seven batters and walked two, and only six of the runs she allowed were earned. Hartman was the winning pitcher. She fanned eight batters and walked one. She gave up no earned runs and just four hits. The Bulldog hits were a double by Spear and singles by Ferriter, Michelotti and Hoffenbacker.
G.F. Russell 001 212 5 — 11 11 2
Butte High 000 002 0 — 2 4 6
Quinn Hartman and Katie Huisman. Kaidy McClafferty and Maria Michelotti. W — Hartman. L — McClafferty (9-5).
GREAT FALLS RUSSELL (15-2, 10-1) — Savannah Voyles 3-5, Laura Poitra 0-2, Myla Robbins 2-4, Julianna Gonzales 0-1, Courtney Schroeder 2-4, Quinn Hartman 0-4, Katie Huisman 1-4, Julia Schearer 0-0, McCall Enott 0-3, Tori Marcum 0-0, Brenna Bushard 0-3, Kierstin Evenson 0-1, Caitlin Soltesz 2-4.
BUTTE HIGH (11-9, 8-3) — Ashten McCloskey 0-4, Kenndi Ferriter 1-3, Maria Michelotti 1-2, Jenna Walker 0-0, Amanda Spear 1-2, Madison Joseph 0-0, Bethany McLean 0-2, Justyce Connole 0-3, Katelyn Alley 0-3, Brianna Ossello 0-0, Ellie Hoffenbacker 1-3, Tristan Walks 0-3.
Extra-base hits — 2B — Huisman, Voyles, Schroeder, Spear.
Runs batted in — G.F. Russell 7 (Robbins 2, Schroeder 2, Voyles 1, Poitra 1, Soltesz 1), Butte High 0.
Great Falls Russell 5, Butte High 1
Butte High played a better game in the nightcap on a mostly chilly, windblown day. The Bulldogs fell behind 1-0 in the first inning and tied the score dramatically in the third before CMR went ahead for good in the fourth.
The Rustlers first scored as Voyles singled, took second on a bobble in the outfield went to third on a deep flyball and was singled home by Robbins. Michelotti tied the score with one swing of the bat in the third, a towering two-out blast to dead-away center field.
The bottom of the fourth saw Russell again do damage with two out. Enott reached on an infield error and Evenson drew a walk. Another error off the bat of Soltesz loaded the bases. Voyles then stroked a two-run single.
Two more runs in the sixth iced the state bye for CMR. Soltesz led off with a walk and Voyles was safe on an error. The runners advanced a bag each on a wild pitch and Soltesz then came home as Poitra hit a sacrifice fly to left field. Robbins singled to left to plate Voyles.
McClafferty struck out two and walked four. She was touched for eight hits — all singles — and only one earned run. Schroeder, the winning pitcher, struck out three and walked one while giving up five hits.
Butte High 001 000 0 — 1 5 4
G.F. Russell 100 202 x — 5 8 2
Kaidy McClafferty and Maria Michelotti. Courtney Schroeder and Katie Huisman. W — Schroeder. L — McClafferty (9-6).
BUTTE HIGH (11-10, 8-4) — Ashten McCloskey 2-4, Kenndi Ferriter 0-4, Maria Michelotti 1-2, Amanda Spear 0-3, Bethany McLean 0-3, Justyce Connole 1-3, Katelyn Alley 1-3, Isabelle Bonney 0-3, Tristan Walks 0-1, Jenna Walker 0-1, Ellie Hoffenbacker 0-1.
GREAT FALLS RUSSELL (16-2, 11-1) — Savannah Voyles 2-5, Laura Poitra 0-1, Myla Robbins 2-3, Courtney Schroeder 1-4, Quinn Hartman 1-4, Katie Huisman 1-4, McCall Enott 1-2, Brenna Bushard 0-0, Kierstin Evenson 0-1, Caitlin Soltesz 0-2.
Extra-base hits — HR — Michelotti (2).
Runs batted in — Butte High 1 (Michelotti), Great Falls Russell 5 (Voyles 2, Robbins 2, Poitra 1).