Red-hot Maroons open with Eagles

Butte Central’s softball team is peaking at the right time.

The Maroons look to take a little momentum into the Class A State tournament in Belgrade. The Maroons open the tournament a noon against Lewistown.

A win would send the Maroons to a battle with three-time defending champion Polson at 4 p.m. A loss would mean a loser-out game on Friday (tournament bracket).

Butte Central went on the road to beat Anaconda 4-0 last week before closing the regular season with an 11-1 romp of Stevensville at home.

“The last two weeks they really changed it around,” BC coach Kelci Thatcher said after her team’s win Saturday. “They’re so focused at the plate. We’re getting that string of hits that we’ve been looking for all year, and at the right time.”

The Maroons didn’t face Lewistown in the regular season. The Eagles enter as the No. 3 seed from the Central A division.

BC, which finished at 9-9 overall and 6-2 in conference, is the No. 2 seed from the Southwestern A. BC takes a solid mix of experience and youth to State under Thatcher, who is in her first year as a head coach.

The Maroons will rely heavily on the arm of freshman pitcher Teresa Piazzola, the unquestioned ace of the team. Mikayla Boggs, a crafty junior, could be turned to in a pinch.

Offensively, the Maroons just might look back on the season and say that senior third baseman Katie Hogart suffering a concussion was the best thing that could have happened.

In Hogart’s place, the Maroons got a spark from freshman Shawnee Hjelt.

Hogart, one of the top fielders in the Class A, is back at the hot corner, but Thatcher has kept Hjelt in the line up — at the top of the order, too.

That move changed the dynamic of the BC offense.

After Hjelt, the Maroons send senior second baseman Hannah Stajcar in the No. 2 hole in front of senior catcher Shannon McLaughlin, senior short stop Danika Neumann and Hogart.

Center fielder Taylor Marthaller follows at No. 6, while senior first baseman Aleesha LaBreche adds a solid bad to go a long with a steady glove in the No. 7 spot.

Piazzola and right fielder Shelby Paffhausen round up BC’s likely starting line. Boggs plays right field.

Junior Courtney Thomas and freshmen Kate Ossello and Aiden Dennehy have also been role players for the Maroons, who are looking for their first State title since 2000.

Butte Central went 26-0 for the second straight season. The 2013 Maroons don’t have the perfect record going into State like those Maroons.

Like all of BC’s past champions, though, the 2013 Maroons are playing their best softball at the right time.