By Bill Foley
Butte Central’s softball team had a couple of rallies up its sleeve Tuesday at a sun-soaked Stodden Park.
Unfortunately for the Maroons, Livingston had one, too.
The Rangers scored four runs in the top of the ninth inning, and Livingston held on for an 8-6 non-conference win over the Maroons.
The four runs in the ninth — three of which were unearned — spoiled what could have been a confidence-building win for the young Maroons, who fell to 0-3.
“We’ve got to get out more,” BC coach Bill “Chunky” Thatcher said of practicing outside. “We’ve been out for a week, and our defense broke up a little bit.”
Livingston took advantage of some defensive miscues to take the lead in the first inning. Shannon Nelson led off the game with a single, and Emily Jesson reached on an error.
Nelson scored on a bunt by starting pitcher Skylar Higgs, and Jesson crossed when catcher Marissa Taylor singled on a swinging bunt.
“We weren’t ready,” Thatcher said. “We haven’t seen small ball.”
Livingston added two more runs with two out in the second. Erika Haines, the No. 9 hitter, singled in Taylor Young before Jesson doubled to drive in Haines.
Maroon pitcher Maci Reopelle shut things down from there. She put together six straight scoreless innings as the BC offense started to heat up. Reopelle gave up four singles over that stretch. She also registered five of her seven strikeouts.
“She pitched well,” Thatcher said. “We didn’t back her up. We’ve got to make the plays.”
The Maroons got one run back in the fourth. Catcher Mia Keeley singled and moved to third on productive groundouts by Maggie Stimatz and Brenna Foley. Keeley came home when freshman Renee Creekmore hit a shot to left field for her first high school hit and RBI.
Sofee Thatcher walked and scored on a two-out double by third baseman Maddi Kump in the fifth.
Central was nearly done in the seventh before Thatcher barely beat out an infield single with two out. Reopelle and Kump followed with back-to-back doubles to tie the game.
After Keeley walked, reliever Ava Malone got out of the jam to send the game to extra innings.
Livingston made it an 8-4 lead in the top of the ninth. Haines led off with a walk, and Nelson bunted and reached on an error. Higgs hit a sacrifice fly to center to put the Rangers on top.
Taylor reached on an error and Malone singled. Both scored when Young hit a triple to the fence.
Again, the Maroons did not go down easy. The team added four hits in the bottom of the ninth. Brooke Badovinac singled but was thrown out going for third when Thatcher singled. Reopelle doubled in Thatcher.
Kump and Keeley followed with singles, but they were stranded.
Coach Thatcher said the Maroons showed progress since they opened the season with losses to Polson and Columbia Falls March 27 in Polson. The coach said his team will continue to improve as the season goes on.
“Overall, I’m happy,” Thatcher said. “We’re not going to set the world on fire right now. It’s a journey that we’re on. Am I disappointed? No. But they’ve got to show me the enthusiasm that they want to keep on learning and get excited. They didn’t get excited in the dugout until we tied it up. We need to find that desire from the first inning on.”
Kump, a senior, finished the game with four hits. Badovinac had three, while Keeley and Reopelle each had two. Freshman Kathryn Lalicker put the ball in play a couple of times and injured sophomore Jaeden Berger made an appearance as a pinch runner.
Nelson made several outstanding plays at shortstop for the Rangers. Thatcher added a leaping grab at short for the Maroons.
Creekmore made a Willie Mays Hayes basket catch in left.
The Maroons will open Southwestern A play Saturday when they head to Stevensville to take on the Yellowjackets.
Livingston 220 000 004 — 8 10 1
Butte Central 000 110 202 — 6 13 4
Skylar Higgs, Ava Malone (5) and Marissa Taylor; Maci Reopelle and Mia Keeley. W — Malone. L — Reopelle (0-2).
LIVINGSTON — Shannon Nelson 2-4, Emily Jesson 1-4, Higgs 1-2, Taylor 1-5, Malone 2-5, Taylor Young 2-4, Kaylee Roberts 0-3, Maddie Johnson 0-3, Addyson Norquist 0-1, Erika Haines 1-2.
BUTTE CENTRAL (0-3) — Brooke Badovinac 2-5, Sofee Thatcher 3-4, Reopelle 2-5, Maddi Kump 4-5, Keeley 2-4, Maggie Stimatz 0-5, Brenna Foley 0-5, Renee Creekmore 1-3, Jaeden Berger 0-0, Kathryn Lalicker 0-4.
3B — Young. 2B — Jesson; Reopelle 2, Kump 2. RBIs — Higgs 2, Young 2, Taylor 1, Haines 1, Jesson 1; Kump 3, Reopelle 2, Creekmore 1.