One question was asked over and over as the large crowd gathered around Field No. 3 at Stodden Park Friday night.
“Is she really a freshman?”
The question was in reference to Butte Central pitcher Teresa Piazzola. The answer is yes, but opponents might want to check her transcripts to make sure.
Piazzola was dominant against Hamilton, striking out 14 batters and giving up just three hits in seven innings.
Unfortunately for the Piazzola and Maroons, though, Hamilton junior Brie Clifford was on top of her game, too.
Clifford struck one more batter and the Broncs mustered one more run, winning the Southwestern A game 2-1 to clinch the conference title and a trip to the Class A State tournament.
The contest was the only one of 48 games in the two-day Laverne Combo Invitational that counts in any conference standings.
“It was phenomenal on both parts,” Butte Central coach Kelci Thatcher of the pitching performances. “I just feel awful that we just can’t get hits to back (Piazzola) up.”
Shay Mohn doubled in a run in the fourth inning to give the Broncs a 1-0 lead. The hit scored Clifford, who hit a seeing-eye single.
A walk came back to bite Piazzola in the fifth. Kloie Nye drew the free pass and scored on a single by McKayl Rothie.
Rothie tried to take second on the throw home, but BC catcher Shannon McLaughlin threw a dart to shortstop Danika Neumann to gun her down.
Hannah Stajcar singled in the sixth to break up Clifford’s no-hit bid. She took second on a wild pitch before scoring when McLaughlin slapped a single down the first base line.
McLaughlin advanced to second on a wild pitch, but Clifford fanned three of the final four batters to end the game.
Thatcher said that Piazzola looked dominant even when she gave up hits.
“They just kind of threw their hands out there,” she said of the Hamilton hits. “They just made contact, and with how hard she throws the ball takes off.”
Piazzola was pitching for the first time since losing 4-3 last Friday in Hamilton. She didn’t throw in BC’s non-conference games because of a sore shoulder. That didn’t sit well with the pitcher.
“I was excited to get back and pitch,” Piazzola said with an ice pack on her shoulder. “I think I just overused it. Nothing is really wrong with it. It’s just sore.”
The shoulder certainly didn’t look like a problem on Friday.
Piazzola struck out the side in second, third and fourth innings. At one point she struck out seven straight batters.
“We had our ace back,” Thatcher said, noting that she knew that ace wasn’t happy about missing starts. “She was (mad). But you could tell she was feeling better tonight. There was a big difference how she pitched to them the last time.”
The Maroons fell to 4-2 in conference and 7-7 overall. Hamilton is 6-1 and 9-8.
Butte Central will likely qualify for the state tournament. They can make sure of that next week when they play at Anaconda on Thursday and at home against Stevensville on Saturday.
First, the Maroons have two more games in the Combo on Saturday. They play Billings Central at 12:30 p.m. and Belgrade at 4.
Both those games are at Field No. 3 at Stodden Park.
Hamilton 000 110 0 — 2 3 0
Butte Central 000 001 0 — 1 2 0
Brie Clifford and Katie Wickman; Teresa Piazzola and Shannon McLaughlin. W — Clifford. L — Piazzola.
HAMITON (6-1, 9-8) — McKayl Rothie 1-2, Taylor Goligoski 0-3, Clifford 1-3, Tayler Reynolds 0-1, Shay Mohn 1-2, Sabrina Friday 0-2, Grace Zohner 0-2, Kayla Menk 0-2, Kloie Nye 0-1.
BUTTE CENTRAL (4-2, 7-7) — Danika Neumann 0-1, Hannah Stajcar 1-2, McLaughlin 1-3, Shawnee Hjelt 0-3, Piazzola 0-3, Taylor Marthaller 0-2, Mikayla Boggs 0-3, Aiden Dennehy 0-3, Shelby Paffhausen 0-2.
2B — Mohn. RBIs — Rothie, Mohn; McLaughlin.