Anaconda’s Charlotte Yoeman-Martin Complex will be the site for the first-ever Southwestern A Divisional softball tournament, which runs Friday and Saturday.
The top three teams will advance to the Class A State tournament next week in Polson. Butte Central heads to the Smelter City looking to be one of those teams.
The Maroons, thanks to their 9-1 conference record, earned a first-round bye. BC (14-6 overall) shared the regular-season title with Hamilton. The Broncs, though, took the No. 1 seed by virtue of the tiebreaker.
Unless there’s a major upset, the Maroons will play host Anaconda (10-10, 6-4) at 4 p.m. The Copperheads battle Corvallis (4-14, 1-9) at 1 p.m.
Stevensville (6-12, 1-9) plays Dillon (6-12, 2-8) in the other 1 p.m. game. The winner of that game plays Hamilton (16-4, 9-1) at 4. (Tournament bracket)
The Maroons enter the tournament peaking at the right time. BC won nine out of its last 10 games. That includes a 3-1 record without injured ace Teresa Piazzola at last week’s Laverne Combo Invitational.
Piazzola, a sophomore who has been at times dominant on her way to a 9-3 record, is expected to pitch this weekend.
If she can’t go the distance, the Maroons have a more-than-capable backup in senior Mikayla Boggs, who proved her mettle by winning three games — including a victory against her former team in Anaconda — last week.
Sophomore McKenzie Gallagher also impressed in a victory at the Combo.
Defensively, coach Kelci Thatcher feels her team is on top of its game with freshman Taylor Wahl, Gallagher and sophomore Shawnee Hjelt up the middle and senior Rylee Green and freshman Mollie Peoples on the corners.
Sophomore catcher Kate Ossello has excelled working with Piazzola, and the Maroons have a solid outfield with senior Shelby Paffhausen in center along with Boggs and seniors Courtney Thomas and Cassidy McGree playing the corner spots.
Offensively, the Maroons enter the postseason with lots of firepower.
Piazzola hit s a team-leading .512, while Wahl, who carries a .372 batting average, has blasted eight home runs. Hjelt, who is hitting .453, drove in a team-high 16 runs.
Peoples (.396) and Paffhausen (.328) also carry impressive batting averages, while freshman Corbyn Holm, the backup catcher, has had some big hits down the stretch. Freshman Emily St. John gives the Maroons a speed option for pinch running.
BC swept every team in the Southwestern A during the season except Hamilton. The Maroons and Broncs split with each team winning at home.
The Maroons are seeking their first state title since Maroons went undefeated in 1999 and 2000.
Hamilton, Butte Central and Anaconda represented the Southwestern A at state last year. Hamilton placed fourth.