By Bruce Sayler
It was a 9-11 call Butte High’s softball team answered Monday.
The Bulldogs needed a victory in their last game of the regular season to finish with a 9-11 record and a No. 4 seed in the nearing State AA Tournament. They walloped Flathead High of Kalispell 20-2 at Stodden Park and will open state tourney play Thursday against Eastern AA fifth-seeded Billings Skyview at 11 a.m.
The state tournament is set for a Thursday-through-Saturday run at the Fort Missoula recreation complex in Missoula.
The fourth seed actually was a result of a 7-7 Western AA record for Butte High, clinched with the win in Monday’s game, which was a makeup tilt after the teams’ scheduled Friday meeting was postoponed because of bad weather.
Monday’s end came in the middle of the fifth inning on the 10-run difference rule after Flathead’s coaches opted exercise their option to continue an inning past what could’ve been a four-inning, 15-run difference halt under governing rules.
The Bravettes wrapped up a 3-17 season.
“I liked the way they came out and put the pedal to the metal,” Butte High head coach Ryan Stosich said of the Bulldogs’ 9-0 first inning. “They never looked back.
“Sometimes, these teams (like Flathead) are spooky. Last week, they took (Missoula) Big Sky into the sixth inning (before losing).”
The Bravettes are a younger contingent, as is Butte. Both sport only four seniors on the roster and each started two. Flathead started four freshmen while Butte High put three in the lineup. Bravette pitchers walked 10 batters and hit five for 15 free passes.
“ ‘Ash’ came out with a strong start,” Stosich said about his freshman starting pitcher Ashlinn Mullaney. “We got it going on defense, and Kodi (Hoagland) started us off on offense with a leadoff triple. Our offense goes around her. When she goes, we go.”
Mullaney struck out seven batters and walked only two. The Bravettes used two freshman pitchers and neither Ava Bessen or Lacie Frankon was able to fan a Bulldog. Butte High batters collected 10 hits, including Hoagland’s triple, two doubles by Rian Ferriter and one two-bagger by Bryn Godbout.
Mullaney held Flathead to three hits – an infield single by Bessen, a double by Mackenzie Brandt and a two-run homer by Kaidyn Lake.
“Our defense played pretty well,” Stosich said after an errorless game by the Bulldogs. “The girls fielded the balls that were hit to them.”
Mullaney set the Bravettes down on two strikeouts and a comebacker to start the game. Butte High took its first swings and demoralized the visitors.
The Bulldogs scored the nine first-inning runs on two hits, two Flathead errors, five walks and four hit batters as Flathead pitchers struggled with their control.
Hoagland started with a triple that bounded off the first-base bag and into the right-field corner. Hoagland quickly scored on a wild pitch before Mullaney and Rion Ferriter drew walks. Kamber Leary was hit by a pitch and the bases were loaded.
Dacelyn Lafond walked to force in a run and then Godbout reached on an error that scored Ferrier and Leary. Joscelyn Cleveland beat out an infield hit while Lafond ran home. An error on the play advanced the runners a base. Gracie Ferriter was plunked with a pitch and bags were full again. Brityn Stewart knocked in a run with a groundout and then another run scored when Hoagland lofted a sacrifice fly.
The sacks were packed again, though, when Mullaney walked and Rian Ferriter was hit by a pitch. Franklin relieved Bessen and hiy Leary with a pitch, forcing in a run before issuing a base on balls to Lafond to force in the ninth run of the inning. A foul-out finished the frame.
Mullaney struck out two Bravettes in the top of the second, gave up a walk and then coaxed a groundout to end the half of the inning. Her Butte High teammates provided her with six more runs in the home half of the second.
The Bulldogs loaded the bases on walks to Cleveland and Gracie Ferriter and a base hit to left by Stewart. Hoagland delivered a two-run single to right field and Mullaney popped up an infield fly that was floating away toward behind first base. Stewart capitalized to score on the sacrifice. Rian Ferriter doubled to the left-field corner to drive in Hoagland. Leary singled to left and Godbout then clubbed a two-run double to center field.
Butte High led 15-0 after two innings.
The Bulldogs added a run in the third when Hoagland worked a walk and ran home on Rian Ferriter’s second double of the game, another shot to left field. Mullaney had faced just three batters in the top of the inning, retiring the Bravettes on two strikeouts and an infield popup.
Flathead scored its only two runs and banged out its only three hits of the game in the top of the fourth inning. Bessen led off with an infield hit but was erased at second base when Laynee Vessar hit into a fielder’s choice. Lake unloaded her home run over the center-field fence. Brandt then doubled but was left stranded.
The Bulldogs widened their gap to 20-2 with four runs in the fourth. The bags filled when Lafond walked, Madisyn Swanson singled and Natalie Lynch was safe on a fielder’s choice. An error let Lafond score and kept the sacks packed. Stewart hit into a fielder’s choice that let Swanson score but put Gracie Ferriter out at second. Hoagland singled to center to bat in Lynch and Mullaney walked to load the bases again. Shanti Berkopec was hit with a pitch, forcing in the last run of the game. Leary hit a grounder on a play that ended with Mullaney courtesy runner Cami Kaurtzman called out on runner’s interfence past second base. Lafond’s line drive was snagged by Flathead third baseman Lake, and the Bravettes staff decided to extend the game half an inning.
Mullaney finished them off with a groundout, strikeout and comebacker – three up, three down.
Flathead 000 20x x — 2 3 5
Butte High 961 4xx x — 20 10 0
Ava Bessen, Lacie Franklin and Laynee Vessar. Ashlinn Mullaney and Gracie Ferriter.
KALISPELL FLATHEAD (3-17, 2-12) — Macy Craver 0-3, Ava Bessen 1-2, Laynee Vessar 0-2, Kaidyn Lake 1-2, Mackenzie Brandt 1-2, Elinor Eve 0-0, Alyssa Leimkuehler 0-2, Lacie Franklin 0-2, Brynn Mailman 0-2.
BUTTE HIGH (9-11, 7-7) — Kodie Hoagland 3-3, Ashlinn Mullaney 0-2, Cami Kautzman 0-0, Rian Ferriter 0-2, Shanti Berkopec 0-0, Kamber Leary 1-3, Dacelyn Lafond 0-2, Bryn Godbout 1-3, Madisyn Swanson 1-1, Joscelyn Cleveland 1-2, Natalie Lynch 0-1, Gracie Ferriter 0-1, Brityn Stewart 1-3, Maddie Jonart 0-1.
Extra-base hits – 2B – Brandt, R. Ferriter 2, Godbout. 3B – Hoagland. HR – Lake.
Runs batted in – Flathead 2 (Lake 2), Butte High 16 (Hoagland 4, R. Ferriter 2, Lafond 2, Godbout 2, Stewart 2, Mullaney 1, Leary 1, Cleveland 1, Berkopec 1).