Butte Central’s nine-game winning streak was snapped with an 8-4 loss to Belgrade Saturday afternoon at Stodden Park.
The loss in the finale of the Laverne Combo Invitational, though, couldn’t put a damper on the spirit of the Maroons, who are playing their best with the Southwestern A divisional tournament just five days away.
“Overall, I am pleased,” said Butte Central coach Kelci Thatcher, whose Maroons closed the regular season at 14-6 overall. “They had a great weekend. We hit the ball well this weekend against some good teams.”
Belgrade made sure it wasn’t perfect by scoring five runs in the top of the sixth inning.
Kristina West and Allie Alstrom each hit two-run singles to highlight the big inning which came right after the Maroons battled back to tie the game at 3.
Butte Central pulled to within four runs when Mollie Peoples doubled and scored on a Corbyn Holm groundout in the bottom of the sixth.
That was all they could muster off Belgrade pitcher Shania Neubauer, though, and the game was called after six by the game’s time limit.
“We were a little stagnant the first part of the game,” Thatcher said. “We really didn’t approach the plate as aggressive as we had the first three games.”
The coach praised her team for not going down quietly.
“The girls, they were resilient,” Thatcher said. “Even in this game they battled until the very end. They never game up.”
Butte Central led 1-0 after Peoples reached on an error and scored on a Rylee Green double in the bottom of the second inning.
That lead didn’t last, however, as the Panthers put a three spot on the board in the third.
Belgrade catcher Rylee Cygan hit a two-run single to score Kindall Bethke and Autumn Rollins, who both singled. Cygan scored on a single by Judy Taylor.
The lead held until the fifth when the Maroons loaded the bases with Mikayla Boggs, Green and Kate Ossello without a hit.
Shawnee Hjelt poked a two-strike hit to score courtesy runner Emily St. John before Ossello scored on a wild pitch to tie the game.
That’s where the good news ended for the home team, though.
Boggs, who was pitching in place of injured ace Teresa Piazzola, was stopped from winning her fourth game in three days when the Panthers started finding holes. Sophomore McKenzie Gallagher relieved Boggs and stopped the bleeding.
“Boggs did phenomenal again,” Thatcher said. “I think she got a little tired. I commend Gallagher. She came in and did excellent.”
Neubauer held the Maroons, who put up 31 runs through their first three games of the tournament to four hits. Green reached base three times with the double, a single and a walk.
The game was the finale in Butte in a BC uniform for seniors Green, Boggs, Shelby Paffhausen, Cassidy McGree and Courtney Thomas.
BC, which went 9-1 in conference play, will be the No. 2 seed in the divisional tournament. The Maroons tied with Hamilton for the league crown, and the Broncs won the tiebreaker.
The divisional tournament — this is the first year of the divisionals — begins Thursday in Anaconda. If weather prevents that tournament from being played, the league teams will qualify for the Class AA State tournament based on their conference records.
Belgrade 003 005 — 8 13 1
Butte Central 010 021 — 4 4 0
Shania Neubauer and Rylee Cygan; Mikayla Boggs, McKenzie Gallagher (6) and Kate Ossello. W — Neubauer. L — Boggs (4-3).
BELGRADE — Kristina West 2-4, Skyla Neubauer 1-4, Kindall Bethke 1-4, Autumn Rollins 1-4, Allie Alstrom 1-4, Hanna Goulet 0-0, Cygan 2-4, Judy Taylor 2-3, Maddie Cade 2-2, Shania Neubauer 1-2, Jordan Branch 0-0.
BUTTE CENTRAL (14-6) — Shawnee Hjelt 1-3, Shelby Paffhausen 0-3, Taylor Wahl 0-3, Mollie Peoples 1-3, Corbyn Holm 0-3, Boggs 0-1, Emily St. John 0-0, Gallagher 0-1, Rylee Green 2-2, Ossello 0-2, Cassidy McGree 0-2.
2B — Cygan; Peoples, Green.
RBIs — West 2, Alstrom 2, Cygan 2, Taylor, Shania Neubauer; Hjelt, Holm, Green.