Billings Skyview’s game held together and Butte High’s didn’t on Thursday in Class AA high school girls’ softball playoffs action at Stodden Park.
Skyview swept the Bulldogs 6-3 and 18-8 to advance to next week’s state AA tournament and Great Falls, and ended Butte High’s season in the process. It marks only the second time in Steve Stosich’s nine-year tenure as the Bulldogs’ head coach that the team has not qualified for the state tournament.
Butte High went 10-12 for the season.
Big run production came from Bekah Ellis in the first game and Alyssa Baxter in the second as the Falcons capitalized on timely hitting and on a rash of Bulldog errors. Butte High committed nine errors, seven in the last game.
The Bulldogs were also unable to convert consistently on scoring opportunities. One example was in the bottom of the second inning in the first game when they loaded the bases with nobody out and then were retired on three straight infield popups without scoring a run.
Butte High suffered 10 first-pitch outs and 13 infield popouts overall trying to solve Baxter in the first game.
The second game saw the home team just fail to make the needed plays, either on offense or defense. The Bulldogs blew leads of 4-0 and 8-4 before falling in a game called in the fifth inning on the 10-run difference rule. Skyview cashed in three Butte High errors, five walks and key hitting to wipe out an 8-7 deficit and score 11 runs in the last half of the fifth.
A win by Butte High would have forced a third game in the best-of-three playoff series.
“There’s not much to say,” Stosich said. “We self-destructed. We just weren’t ourselves today.”
Stosich noted that many of the players seemed just off their games and did not perform as well as they had through much of the season. They played a good-hitting team Thursday and they played a lot of softball on Butte’s hottest day of the spring so far for softball. The heat might have been fatiguing, but it was a condition in which both teams played.
The most difficulty associated with the loss, Stosich indicated, was that the seniors did not get to be rewarded for their careers with a trip to the state tournament.
“Overall, I’m pleased with the effort,” the coach said, looking over the season. “The final product just wasn’t there. I think the seniors put a lot into this program and I respect them for that.
“I’m happy with that.”
Senior ace Jessica Robertson pitched the distance in both games for Butte High. She wound up with a 10-10 season record. She struck out 10 batters and walked nine on the day and will continue her career next fall at Dawson Community College in Glendive. Baylee Thatcher and Ashten McCloskey clubbed home runs for the Bulldogs Bethany McLean batted 5-for-6.
Butte High left 16 runners on base over the two games while Skyview stranded 14.
Billings Skyview 6, Butte High 3
Butte High led 1-0 after one inning, but was unable to hold the advantage. Thatcher singled in Maria Michelotti, who had singled, and advanced to second on a ground ball.
Skyview went ahead 2-1 in the top of the third inning. Erika Hall hammered a two-out ground-rule double, Baxter drew a walk and Morgan Webster blooped a run-scoring single to right field. Eillis then thumped run-scoring double into the left-center gap.
The Falcons struck for four runs in the top of the fifth inning to grow their lead to 6-1. Tyler Fleury reached on a dropped. throw and Hall put down a sacrifice bunt. Baxter then singled to center. Webster’s ground ball was booted and Fleury scored. Ellis then crunched a three-run homer over the left-field fence.
Butte High scored two runs in the last of the sixth as McCloskey belted a home run over the right fieldf fence with one out and McLean aboard via a leadoff single.
However, the Bulldogs were unable to score again. Michelotti led off the bottom of the seventh with a single, but was stranded as Bulldogs hit two infield popups and struck out to end the game.
Billings Skyview 002 040 0 — 6 10 0
Butte High 100 002 0— 3 10 2
Alyssa Baxter and Kodi Bell. Jessica Robertson and Maria Michelotti. W — Baxter. L — Robertson (10-9).
BILLINGS SKYVIEW — Tyler Fleury 1-4, Erika Hall 1-3, Melissa Baxter 2-3, Morgan Webster 2-4, Bekah Ellis 2-4, Alicia Stoner 1-2, Justine O’Donnell 0-0, Kris Rickhoff 1-3, Morgan McGraw 0-4, Kodi Bell 0-4.
BUTTE HIGH (10-11) — Ashten McCloskey 1-4, Jessica Robertson 0-0, Amanda Spear 1-3, Maria Michelotti 2-4, Bobbie Osterman 1-4, MacKensie Daily 0-0, Baylee Thatcher 1-4, Morgan Bagley 0-4, Bethany McLean 3-3, Justyce Connole 0-1, Ashton LaFond 0-1, Kendall Alley 1-2, Ellie Hoffenbacker 0-1.
Extra-Base hits — 2B — Baxter, Hall, Ellis, McLean, Spear. HR — Ellis, McCloskey (5).
Runs batted in — Skyview 5 (Ellis 4, Webster 1), Butte High 3 (McCloskey 2, Thatcher 1).
Billings Skyview 18, Butte High 8
Butte High looked, early in the contest, like it was going to force a third game. The Bulldogs led 1-0 after the first inning, as Amanda Spear was hit by a pitch for the second time of the day, advanced to third base on a Bobbie Osterman single and then came home on an infield hit by Thatcher.
The Bulldogs made it a 4-0 difference with three runs in the top of the third. McCloskey beat out an infield hit. Two outs later, Osterman worked a walk and then Thatcher thumped a three-run homer over the left-center field fence.
Skyview bounced back with four runs in its half of the frame to tie the score at 4-all. Morgan McGraw singled up the middle and then Shaelyn Bachini popped out in front of the plate. A throw to first base to try to double off McGraw was wide and then got past the outfielder. Kassie Soelter, pinch running for McGraw, got to third base on the two errors. Soelters scored on an infield hit by Tyler Fleury. Erika Hall followed with a single before Baxter, the Skyview pitcher, helped herself with a long three-run homer over the left-center field fence.
The Bulldogs, however, bounced back with another four runs for an 8-4 advantage in the top of the fourth inning. Justyce Connole worked a walk and took second as Kendall Alley put down a sacrifice bunt. Ashten McCloskey singled and then Spear walked to load the bases. A walk to Michelotti forced Connole home with a run and kept the bags full. Osterman then reached on an infield hit that socred McCloskey and kept the sacks packed. One out later, Bethany McLean delivered a two-run single to left field.
Again, the Falcons came back. They plated three runs in the last of the fourth to draw to within a run 8-7, of Butte High. The Falcon fourth started with a dropped infield flyball that let Kris Rickhoff reach base. Soelters, who relieved Baxter in the pitcher’s circle the previous inning in a move that also saw Baxter take over first base, got a chance to hit and registered a bunt single. Robertson struck out the next two batters. Hall then singled into left-center to load the bases. Baxter belted a single to left field that skipped past the fielder, scoring three runs.
Butte High left the bases loaded in the top of the fifth inning, having gotten singles from Connole and Spear and Michelotti getting hit by a pitch with two out. Soelter got out of the jam with a ground ball.
However, there was no such escape route for Robertson and Company in the bottom of the inning.
Alicia Stoner started Skyview off with a single lined hard off the left-field fence. Justine O’Donnell was inserted to run for her. Rickhoff then ripped a home run over the left-field fence, scoring two runs. Soelter walked, but was erased on a sacrifice bunt by Bachini that the Bulldogs turned into a nifty double play. Bachini was out at first and the second baseman, McCloskey, covering first on the play, then spotted Soelter past the bag at second. She fired to McLean, the shortstop, and a rundown that trapped Soelter ensued.
However, Fleury then reached on an infield hit and Hall walked. Baxter bashed a base hit that caromed off Robertson’s ankle and into left field. Fleury scored on the carom hit. Morgan Webster walked and the bags were full.
Ellis hit a double to center field, scoring Hall and Baxter. Stoner then singled up the middle and Webster scored. Rickhoff singled to center before Soelter walked to pack the sacks. Bachini also drew a walk, forcing Stoner home with a run. Fleury reached on an error on which both Rickhoff and Soelter scored.
The game then ended on the 10-run rule as Hall’s ball was booted and the ensuing throw was bad as Bachini tallied the last run.
Butte High 103 40x x — 8 10 7
Billings Skyview 004 3(11))x x — 18 16 2
Jessica Robertson and Maria Michelotti. Alyssa Baxter, Kassie Soelter (4) and Kodi Bell. W — Soelter. L — Robertson (10-10).
BUTTE HIGH (10-12) — Ashten McCloskey 2-4, Amanda Spear 1-2, Maria Michelotti 0-2, Bobbie Osterman 2-3, MacKensie Daily 0-0, Baylee Thatcher 2-3, Bethany McLean 2-3, Ashton LaFond 0-3, Justyce Connole 1-2, Kendall Alley 0-1, Morgan Bagley 0-1.
BILLINGS SKYVIEW — Tyler Fleury 2-5, Erika Hall 3-3, Alyssa Baxter 3-4, Morgan Webster 1-2, Bekah Ellis 1-4, Alicia Stoner 2-4, Justine O’Donnell 0-0, Kris Rickhoff 2-4, Morgan McGraw 1-1, Kassie Soelter 1-1, Kodi Bell 0-0, Shaelyn Bachini 1-2.
Extra-Base hits — 2B — Ellis. HR — Baxter, Rickhoff, Thatcher (1).
Runs batted in — Butte High 8 (Thatcher 4, McLean 2, Michelotti 1, Osterman 1); Billings Skyview 13 (Baxter 5, Ellis 2, Stoner 2, Rickhoff 2, Bachini 1).