By Bruce Sayler
Winds were about 15 mph across the Stodden Park diamond and blew gusts of more than 30 mph – one report was for a 56 mph blast – Friday.
LaVerne Combo Invitational Softball Tournament teams did the impossible. They played in those conditions.
One game was an evening contest in which Frenchtown chilled host Butte Central 15-0 in a Southwestern A Conference game called after four innings on the 15-point difference rule.
Frenchtown was the state Class A runner-up to Polson last year and the Broncs are sure-bets to be contending for the title again this year. Their only loss to date was 3-0 at the hands of Laurel.
Senior pitcher Sadie Smith showed good velocity and was adeot in speed-changing and varying pitch locations. She struck out five and walked none, holding the Maroons to three hits – a double and single by Sofee Thatcher, and a single by Mia Keeley.
“We got the win needed earlier today,” BC head coach Chunky Thatcher said, alluding to am 11-9 win over conference opponent Hamilton Thursday afternoon. “Conditions were bad, and we didn’t field the best. I’m proud of them. We’re improving and the girls are still hanging in there.
“We don’t have the numbers we’d like, and some of the girls hadn’t played before this year.”
Frenchtown is a long established power and the Broncs were still good in the vicious wind.
“Hattie (Mehring) hadn’t pitched for us in a while and I needed to get her some work,” coach Thatcher said, “and, I needed to rest Sofee. I’ll use them both again (Saturday).”
Mehring held the Broncs to one run in the first, before problems snowballed for Butte Central in the ensuing frames.
Cass Bagnall of Frenchtown led off the game with a double to left field, stole third base and scored on the first of seven errors the Maroons committed.
Sofee Thatcher whacked a one-out double in the bottom of the first, but was stranded as Smith snuffed the threat by inducing two flyball outs – though flychasing was adventurous in the seemingly cyclonic weather.
The Broncs galloped for six runs in the top of the second inning. Abby Faulhaber and Olivia Campbell poked singles and both scored when Carah Evans’ wind-blown fly ball fell in for a double and got away in the outfield. Bagnell reached on an error with one out and Smith smacked a single up the middle for two more runs. Juna Ashby drew a two-out walk and Toni Beatty delivered the last two runs of the inning with a single.
The BC girls went down in order in the second, bringing Frenchtown quickly back to the plate. The Broncs plated five runs for a 12-0 command through three innings. Campbell singled and Evans reached on an error, both scoring on a one-out base hit by Bagnall. Smith singled and followed Bagnall home when Alexis Godin punched a bunt up the first-base line for a single. Grodin got home three batters later when Faulhaber’s ground ball was muffed.
Again, Smith set Butte Central down in order in the third inning. Frenchtown needed three runs to end the game on the 15-run rule, which goes into effect after the fourth inning. The Broncs loaded the bases on two errors around a walk. Smith singled in Ava McPhillips, Godin singled in Parker Robinson, and a bases-loaded fielder’s choice allowed Smith to score with two outs. A groundout ended the half-inning.
The Maroons needed a run to extend the game another inning and got into position to do score one. Thatcher beat out an infield hit, but was erased when Brooke Badovinac hit into a fielder’s choice. An out later, Mia Keeley was safe on an infield hit, sending Badovinac to second base. However, Smith prevented the run by throwing a strikeout and the game ended allowing all involved – players, coaches, fans – to head for the warmer shelter.
“You can’t make chili without all the beans,” Chunky Thatcher said, “and, right now, we don’t have all the beans. We have two non-conference games (Saturday) and we’ll figure some things out. We need to figure out what we need to win two conference games next week (to reach the state Class A tournament).”
The BC girls are 4-6 in the Southwestern A and 4-10 for the season. Butte Central is to play two games on Saturday at the LaVerne Combo Invitational – 12:30 p.m. against Hardin, and 4 p.m. versus Livingston.
Frenchtown 165 3xx x — 15 11 0
Butte Central 000 0xx x — 0 4 7
Sadie Smith and Toni Beatty. Hattie Mehring and Mia Keeley.
FRENCHTOWN (16-1, 12-0) — Cass Bagnall 2-4, Sage Williams 0-1, Sadie Smith 3-3, Alexis Godin 2-4, Juna Ashby 0-2, Delaney Jarrett 0-1, Toni Beatty 1-2, Tarin Croy 0-1, Abby Faulhaber 1-2, Tanli Croy 0-1, Olivia Campbell 2-3, Carah Evans 1-2, Ava McPhillips 0-1, Chloe Long 0-2, Parker Robinson 0-0.
BUTTE CENTRAL (4-10, 4-6) — Hattie Mehring 0-2, Sofee Thatcher 2-2, Brooke Badovinac 0-2, Maggie Stimatz 0-2, Mia Keeley 1-2, Jaeden Berger 0-2, Renee Creekmore 0-1, Brenna Foley 0-1, Cloe Stillwagon 0-1.
Extra-base hits – 2B – Bagnall, Evans, Thatcher.
Runs batted in – Frenchtown 12 (Grodin 4, Bagnall 2, Smith 2, Beatty 2, Tarin Croy 1, Evans 1), Butte Central 0.