An injury to veteran third baseman and team cleanup hitter Baylee Thatcher was, perhaps, the most important question to come out of Butte High’s softball doubleheader loss to Billings Skyview Friday at Stodden Park.
The Bulldogs fell 7-5 in their Eastern AA Conference opener, then lost 23-16 in the non-league portion of the twin bill. Thatcher appeared to roll an ankle when she stumbled over first base on the last play of the first game. She was trying to beat out a throw and extend the inning after hitting a ground ball. The senior, a fourth-year starter, was unable to play in the second contest.
Butte High head coach Steve Stosich said it was not immediately known the seriousness of the injury.
Reserve Ellie Hoffenbacker and usual center fielder Justyce Connole both saw duty at third base in the later game. Connole played at four positions in the doubleheader, center field in the first tilt and then shortstop, pitcher and third base in the nightcap. The switches didn’t harm her second-game offensive performance, which included a pair of three-run homers.
A hard-blowing and chilling wind was constant through the twin bill and surely affected the games and performances for both teams.
The doubleheader saw 51 hits, including nine home runs. Eight of the dingers were walloped in the second game as flies sent to the outfield often carried over the fence as the wind blew out, away from home plate.
“In the first game, we lost 7-5 but we could’ve won it 6-2, 7-2,” Stosich said. “We got behind in the early innings’ We had 14 left on base, so we left a lot of them out there. We didn’t get timely hits, though the same kids who came up at those times had gotten us good, hard hits earlier.
The Bulldogs rallied from a 6-0 deficit to make the game close.
`The opposite was the case in the second game. The Bulldogs got ahead of the Falcons 10-3 before suffering through a 19-batter, 13-run sixth inning Skyview put together.
“I don’t mean this in a derogatory way, but it seemed almost like a Little League game,” Stosich said, referring largely to a rash of walks, errors and all the batted balls that resulted in home runs with the stiff wind. “It just wouldn’t end.
“But this one’s over. We’ll come back tomorrow.”
The Bulldogs are slated for a noon Eastern AA Conference twin bill Saturday against Billings Senior at Stodden Park.
Billings Skyview 7, Butte High 5
The Falcons took a 6-0 command with three runs in each of the first two innings. Bekah Ellis’ two-run homer over the center field fence followed a run-scoring single by Morgan Webster in the first frame. Then, two Butte High errors and a run-scoring single by Alyssa Baxter made it 6-0 through two.
The Bulldogs cut the difference in half in the fifth inning after Jessica Robertson and Falcon pitcher Kassie Soelter settled into a middle-innings duel. Butte High loaded the bases, however, in the fifth with nobody out on singles by Amanda Spear and Maria Micheolotti and a walk to Thatcher. After an out, Bobbie Osterman smacked a two-run ground-rule double to right field and Bethany McLean followed with a run-scoring groundout.
Ellis reached on an error with the bases loaded for a Skyview run in the sixth. Butte High almost pulled off the successful rally in the seventh. The Bulldogs loaded the bases on a McLean single, Kendall Alley reaching on an error and Spear getting hit by a pitch around a pair of fielder’s choices. Michelotti then drove in two runs with a ground-rule double before Thatcher grounded out to third and hurt herself trying to beat the throw to the bag.
Soelters struck out seven and walked four in picking up the pitching win. Robertson walked four and whiffed three. Four errors hurt the Butte High cause on defense.
Billings Skyview 330 001 0 — 7 9 2
Butte High 000 003 2 — 5 10 4
Kassie Soelters and Kodi Bell. Jessica Robertson and Maria Michelotti. W — Soelters.L — Robertson (2-3).
BILLINGS SKYVIEW — Tyler Fleury 0-5, Erika Hall 0-2, Alyssa Baxter 1-3, Morgan Webster 2-4, Bekah Ellis 2-4, Alicia Stoner 1-4, Kris Rickhoff 0-3, Kodi Bell 2-3, Kassie Soelters 1-4.
BUTTE HIGH (2-3, 0-1) — Ashton LaFond 0-5, Amanda Spear 3-4, Maria Michelotti 3-4, Baylee Thatcher 1-4, Ashten McCloskey 0-2, Morgan Bagley 0-1, Bobbie Osterman 2-4, Bethany McLean 1-4, Justyce Connole 0-3, Kendall Alley 0-3.
Extra0base hits — 2B — Osterman, Michelotti. HR — Ellis.
Runs batted in — Skyview 5 (Ellis 3, Baxter 1, Webster 1), Butte High 5 (Michelotti 2, Osterman 2, McLean 1).
Billings Skyview 23, Butte High 16
Bekah Ellis ripped a three-run homer in the first inning to stake Skyview to an early lead. Butte High, however, wiped it out by scoring on a Falcon error in the first inning, then tallying eight runs in the second. Ashten McCloskey wingled with one out in the Butte High second and then, after another out, Morgan Bagley belted a base hit. Ashton LaFond singled in McCloskey and Amanda Spear walked to load the bases. Maria Michelotti reached on an error that scored Bagley and Bethany McLean mashed a run-scoring single. Another error scored Michelotti and put Bobbie Osterman on base. Justyce Connole crunched a three-run homer over the left-field fence before the inning ended. The Bulldogs widened their lead to 10-3 in the third inning as Bagley, LaFond and Spear loaded the bases on singles and McLean lofted a sacrifice fly.
The Falcons scored three times in the fifth inning. Morgan Webster drove in a run with a base hit and Kris Rickhoff knocked in two with a single to center field. Erika Hall’s one-out double began the surge.
Skyview then erupted in the sixth. It began with Alyssa Baxter hitting a double before back-to-back home runs were hammered by Shaelyn Bachini and Tyler Fleury. After an out, Webster and Ellis drew walks to set up a three-run blast by Alicia Stoner. Connole relieved Osterman in the p;itcher’s circle and Rickhoff greeted her with a double. Bell singled before Baxter delivered a two-run double. Bachini singled, and an error on the play allowed Baxter to score. Fleury drew a walk and Hall unloaded the bases with a three-run homer. Webster and Stoner drew walks around the second out of the inning and Rickhoff was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Bell walked to force in a run before Connole got Baxter — up in the inning for the third time — on a comebacker for the final out of the inning.
Skyview clubbed four home runs in the frame.
Butte High put three runs of their own up in their half of the sixth. Bagley bashed a two-out three-run homer over left field after Osterman dropped in an infield hit in front of second base and Ellie Hoffenbacker was hit by a pitch.
The Falcons scored four runs in the seventh as Butte High committed three errors and Rickhoff walloped a two-run double.
The Bulldogs finished with Osterman pitching well in the top half of the seventh inning, and the team tallying three runs on Connole’s homer to left field in the bottom of it. Baxter was the winning pitcher, in relief of a fatiguing Soelters, for Skyview. Butte High pitchers issued 10 walks and struck out five batters. The Falcons’ hurlers totaled three strikeouts and four walks.
Billings Skyview 300 03(13) 4 — 23 17 4
Butte High 181 00( 3) 3 — 16 15 4
Kassie Soelters, Alyssa Baxter (3) and Kodi Bell. Bobbie Osterman, Justyce Connole (6), Osterman (7) and Bethany McLean, Maria Michelotti (6). W — Baxter. L — Osterman (0-1).
BILLINGS SKYVIEW — Tyler Fleury 1-4, Erika Hall 3-6, Morgan Webster 1-3, Bekah Ellis 2-4, Alicia Stoner 1-5, Kris Rickhoff 3-4, Kodi Bell 1-5, Kassie Soelters 0-1, Alyssa Baxter 2-4, Shaelyn Bachini 3-5.
BUTTE HIGH (2-4, 0-1) — Ashton LaFond 2-3, Kendall Alley 0-0, Amanda Spear 2-5, Maria Michelotti 0-4, Bethany McLean 2-4, Bobbie Osterman 2-5, McKenzie Joseph 0-0, Justyce Connole 2-4, Ashten McCloskey 2-5, Ellie Hoffenbacker 0-4, Morgan Bagley 3-4.
Extra-base hits — 2B — Hall, Baxter 2, Rickhoff 2, McCloskey. HR — Ellis, Bachini, Fleury, Stoner, Hall, Bagley, Connole 2.
Runs batted in — Skyview 19 ((Hall 3, Ellis 3, Stoner 3, Bachini 3, Rickhoff 2, Baxter 2, Fleury 1, Webster 1, Bell 1), Butte High 13 (Connole 6, McLean 3, Bagley 3, LaFond 1).