By Bruce Sayler
Sophomore pitcher Liberty Rogers of Missoula Big Sky had it her way Tuesday in a 6-3 Western AA Conference high school girls’ softball victory over Butte High at Stodden Park.
Her way was a steady diet of tempting slowballs – changeups of two varieties. One was excrutiatingly slow for batters to wait on and the other looked like it could stop any time on the way to the plate. Both gave the Butte High would-be hitters big eyes and they popped out seven times to the Big Sky infield.
“We stunk hitting=wise,” was the bare assessment of Ryan Stosich, head coach of the Bulldogs. “Give their pitcher credit. “She kept us off-balanced. She had us swinging at stuff we shouldn’t have been and not swinging at stuff we should’ve been.”
Patience wasn’t a matter when it came to the changeup tease, Stosich said. Abstinence was.
“I’d prefer they not swing at the changeup at all,” he said, “unless it is a two-strike count.”
Rogers tossed in a few fastballs and was good placing pitches on the outside edge, leaving the Butte High swingers guess as to when she might be pulling the string. She disguised the slow pitch well coining out her hand.
The Bulldogs weren’t without good moments. Freshman Brityn Stewart took Eagle outfielders to the fence twice with hard-hit flies eventually caught for outs.
“She barreled it up,” Stosich nodded and agreed. “Ashlinn (Mullaney) pitched well. “She wasn’t as sharp as last time she pitched – she missed a couple pitches – but, she gave us a chance to win.
“We just had too many popups. We didn’t make them field the ball. We were a little flat, today.”
Senior shortstop Kodie Hoagland and junior second baseman Bryn Godbout stroked a double apiece for Butte High. The Bulldogs’ other hits were singles by Mullaney, Rian Ferriter and Kamber Leary.
Jordan Whitmire and Delaney Laird belted a double apiece for Big Sky. Whitmire and Kyler Latrielle each had two hits.
The Eagles had a 3-0 lead before Butte High scored. Big Sky started with two runs in the second inning as Laird reached on an error to start the inniing and sped home on Whitmire’s double for the first run. Whitmire took third on a sacrifice bunt by Brooke Schaffer and came home on a groundout by Breanna Hewitt.
Each team started three freshmen in its lineup in nods to the future. They experienced a chilly win blowing in and a game result that saw Big Sky aenge a 12-10 loss the Eagles suffered to Butte High in Missoula earlier this spring.
Big Sky’s third run Tuesday came in the third inning as the speedy Latrielle, one of the freshmen, beat out a two-out infield hit, stole second base and dashed home on a base hit by Grace Hood.
Hoagland drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the third and rode home on a double by Godbout that glanced off the left-field fence for Butte High’s first run.
Big Sky took its advantage to 5-1 with a run in each the fourth and fifth frame. Whitmire singled to center with one out in the fourth, then moved to second base when Schaffer was hit by a pitch. An out later, Sadie Nei singled Whitmire home.
In the fifth, Latrielle worked a leadoff walk and scored an out later on a double by Laird into the left-center field gap.
The Bulldogs rallied for two runs in the bottom of the sixth to cut the difference to 5-3. Hoagland doubled to center to start their half of the inning, then Godbout drew a walk. Mullaney drove in Hoagland with a single to left field. Godbout ran to third base and Mullaney to second on a wild pitch. An out later, Leary dropped a bloop single into short center field that allowed Godbout to score. A popup and a groundout, though, snuffed the rally.
The last run was Big Sky’s and was tallied in the seventh inning – all on the speed of Latrielle. She rapped a two-out base hit up the middle, then stole second base, continued on to third as the throw to second sailed into the outfield, and then outran the throw to the plate.
Mullaney, also a freshman, struck out four batters and walked two in her full-game stint while Rogers wound up with two walks and seven strikeouts in her win.
The loss dropped Butte High to 5-7 for the season, including a 5-3 conference record. The Bulldogs will play a pair of Eastern Conference teams Saturday in a crossover non-conference exhibition showcase in Great Falls. Big Sky improved to 3-8 and 3-4 with the win.
Big Sky 021 110 1 — 6 7 0
Butte High 001 002 0 — 3 5 2
Liberty Rogers and Brooke Schaffer. Ashlinn Mullaney and Jordyn Bolton. W – Rogers. L – Mullaney.
MISSOULA BIG SKY (3-8, 3-4) — Sadie McGuinn 0-4, Kyler Latrielle 2-3, Grace Hood 1-4, Delaney Laird 1-3, Jordan Whitmire 2-3, Brooke Schaffer 0-1, Breanna Hewitt 0-3, Sadie Nei 1-2, Irene Griswold 0-3.
BUTTE HIGH (5-7, 5-3) — Kodie Hoagland 1-3, Bryn Godbout 1-2, Ashlinn Mullaney 1-3, Rian Ferriter 1-3, Kamber Leary 1-3, Dacelyn LaFond 0-0, Jordyn Bolton 0-3, Joscelyn Cleveland 0-3, Taylor Drakos 0-0, Madisyn Swanson 0-2, Gracie Ferriter 0-1, Brityn Stewart 0-3.
Extra-base hits – 2B – Whitmire, Laird, Godbout, Hoagland.
Runs batted in – Big Sky 5 (Hood 1, Laird 1, Whitmire 1, Hewitt 1, Nei 1), Butte High 3 (Godbout 1, Mullaney 1, Leary 1).