By Bill Foley
BELGRADE — Shawnee Hjelt said her Maroons entered the Class A State softball tournament highly determined.
The Butte Central senior third baseman showed that and then some Thursday evening as the Maroons routed Havre 13-0 in five innings.
Hjelt hit a first-inning triple before blasting a two-run home run in the second inning to ignite the BC onslaught. Then she had the best seat in the house while classmate Teresa Piazzola put on a show as the Maroons coasted into Friday’s noon showdown with 18-1 Belgrade.
Friday’s games were all moved up 2 hours because of Friday’s wet forecast. The host Panthers beat Columbia Falls 8-0 Thursday.
Butte Central takes an 15-3 record into Friday’s play. (Bracket)
“It’s a lot different atmosphere,” Hjelt said. “It’s our last State tournament for us three seniors. We’re determined.”
Piazzola was dominating in the pitchers’ circle and at the plate. She struck out the first six Blue Ponies and fanned 11 overall in the game that was called by the mercy rule after five innings.
BC’s ace also hit a two-run single in the first inning and a three-run home run in the fourth, driving in five runs overall.
“She was in the zone today,” Hjelt said of Piazzola. “She was ready.”
BC coach Kelci Thatcher was thrilled with her team’s 11-hit attack. The Maroons scored four in the first, three in the second, two in the third and four in the fourth.
“I feel like they finally put a full game together,” Thatcher said. “It’s hard coming in and not playing until 6 at night. You worry about them having too much down time, and their nerves getting to them. But they did a great job of coming in relaxed but ready to go.”
The Maroons got contributions for all 10 players who got in the game.
It all started when Hjelt took a pitch to right-center field for a standup triple with one out in the first.
“It was an outside pitch, so I had to go with it that way,” Hjelt said. “I am not good at that, so it was good.”
Hjelt scored when Taylor Wahl reached on an error one batter later.
“Shawnee is having a phenomenal year, she really is,” Thatcher said. “Her swing, when she’s relaxed, is just so smooth. She’s really kind of been one of the leaders. If her and Kloie get on, good things happen for us. It seems like everything else just falls into place.”
Kloie Thatcher, the leadoff hitter, joined catcher Corbyn Holm, Hjelt and Piazzola with a two-hit game.
Senior McKenzie Gallagher, Wahl and Mollie Peoples each added a single. Kassidy Criscuolo drove in a run with a deep sacrifice fly, and Megan Michelotti dropped down a sacrifice bunt that led to a run.
McKenzie Norton, a courtesy runner for Piazzola in the third, scored a run after Piazzola worked a walk.
“They were really disciplined at the plate,” coach Thatcher said. “We didn’t chase any bad pitches.”
Piazzola needed just 67 pitches in the win. She struck out six batters swinging and five looking. She struck out the side in order in the first, second and fifth innings.
“That’s one of the best game Theresa has pitched,” coach Thatcher said. “She threw really hard and she hit her spots. She was relaxed. In all four years at the state tournament she looked like she was the most comfortable she’s ever been.”
The Blue Ponies only hit three balls in play.
Janae Boles grounded out to Hjelt at third, and Madison Tommerup flew out to Criscuolo in left.
Dani Wagner, the losing pitcher, hit a solid single with one out in the fourth. That’s when the Maroons showed off their defensive skills.
When Scout Boucher attempted a bunt, Holm made a spectacular catch for the out. One pitch later, Holm threw a laser to Thatcher, the shortstop, to nail Wagner as she tried to steal. That ended the inning.
“Those are the plays that, momentum-wise, you have to feed off of,” coach Thatcher said. “They’re ready to compete and they’re ready to make the State tournament to last, and those are the plays that are going to get them where they want to be.”
The Maroons will play Belgrade for the second time. They fell 7-2 to the Panthers at the LaVerne Combo tournament two weeks ago.
Havre 000 00x x — 0 1 4
Butte Central 432 4xx x — 13 11 0
Dani Wagner, Alex Barkus (3) and Nicole Parsons; Teresa Piazzola and Corbyn Holm. W — Piazzola (13-2). L — Wagner.
HAVRE (8-12) — Janae Boles 0-2, Parsons 0-2, Wagner 1-2, Scout Boucher 0-2, Jacey McDonald 0-2, Claire Worm 0-2, Jacelyn Hassa 0-1, Barkus 0-1, Camryn Huson 0-0, Madison Tommerup 0-1, Payton Howard 0-0.
BUTTE CENTRAL (15-3) — Kloie Thatcher 2-3, Shawnee Hjelt 2-3, Taylor Wahl 2-3, Holm 2-3, Piazzola 2-2, McKenzie Norton 0-0, Mollie Peoples 1-3, Kassidy Criscuolo 0-2, McKenzie Gallagher 1-2, Megan Michelotti 0-1.
HR — Hjelt, Piazzola. 3B — Hjelt. RBIs — Piazzola 5, Hjelt 2, Thatcher, Wahl, Holm, Criscuolo. 1 comment