For a split second, Shelby Paffhausen wasn’t sure if she hit the ball far enough as she watched it sail toward the center field fence Saturday afternoon.
When the ball cleared Livingston center fielder Jacey Schleicher and found the grass on the other side of the fence, the Butte Central senior glided around the bases with a smile from ear to ear.
“At first I was a little worried, then I saw it go,” Paffhausen said. “It was the best feeling.”
The home run — the first for Paffhausen since her sophomore year — was one of three round trippers hit by the Maroons as BC beat Livingston 9-5 in a non-conference softball game at Field 3 at Stodden Park.
Sophomore Teresa Piazzola and senior Rylee Green also belted home runs for the Maroons, who smacked 12 hits in a break-out performance that came a week after two frustrating games at Polson.
Piazzola also showed flashes of dominance from the pitcher’s circle as she evened her record at 1-1 with a seven-strikeout performance.
“It’s nice to have everyone contribute to our offense,” BC coach Kelci Thatcher said. “It’s a credit to the girls. They worked their tails off this entire week just hitting, hitting, hitting and going in with confidence.
“It just goes to show you what hard work and fundamentals can do for you. They came ready to play today.”
Piazzola and Green each had three hits and three RBIs on the day. Freshman Corbyn Holm and sophomore catcher Kate Ossello each smacked two hits.
Piazzola and sophomore second baseman Shawnee Hjelt each doubled in the victory that puts Central at 1-2 as the Maroons gear up for the Southwestern A season.
The double by Piazzola put the Maroons on top for good, scoring Holm in the second inning.
The Maroons put up a three spot in the third to make it 4-0. Moments after Green singled in Ossello, who reached on a walk, Piazzola hit an opposite-field home run to right-center.
Paffhausen’s dinger, which came with one out in the fourth, made the score 5-0.
Piazzola was perfect the first time through the order. Livingston had more success on the second time around.
Hailey Versland singled and Sierra Higgs reached on an error. Both scored on a Vanessa Davaz single that cut the lead to 5-2.
Green answered back in the bottom of the fifth, hitting a 2-run shot to center field. That blast scored Holm, who singled.
Versland added a two-run single in the top of the sixth, scoring Megan Gibson, who walked, and Schleicher, who singled.
Again, the Maroons had an answer when Hjelt doubled and scored on an Ossello single. Ossello scored when Mollie Peoples hit a sharp ground out to short stop for an RBI that made it a 9-4 game.
The Rangers didn’t go quietly in the ninth. Davaz singled and scored on a single by Gibson.
Livingston, though, ended the game with the bases loaded thanks to some flashy defense by the Maroons.
Green, a third base, and Peoples, a freshman at first base, made nice plays for the first two outs. Peoples closed out the game by robbing Cassidy Versland of extra bases by snagging a liner for the third out.
“Our defense came up big when we needed it to,” Thatcher said. “Mollie Peoples had two huge plays. Rylee Green had a nice play at the end. When we needed our defense they showed up.”
Freshman Taylor Wahl also made a nice play, starting a 6-3-2 double play that killed a rally in the fourth inning. She also came within an eyelash of BC’s fourth home run.
Wahl blasted a shot that had enough juice to clear the wall in left field. Gibson, though, crashed into the fence as she reached up made a great catch.
Senior Mikayla Boggs and junior Erin McGeehan also singled for the Maroons, who open conference play Thursday when they play host to Dillon.
Paffhausen said Saturday’s performance will give the Maroons a boost.
“It will give us a lot of confidence for next week going into conference games,” she said.
The senior center fielder said she expects lots of reasons to smile on the softball field in 2014.
“Everyone is so athletic, it’s awesome,” she said. “I have a good feeling about this year.”
Livingston 000 022 1 — 5 8 1
Central 013 122 0 — 9 12 3
Ariel Howieson, Sierra Higgs (2) and Cassidy Versland; Teresa Piazzola and Kate Ossello. W — Piazzola (1-1). L — Howieson.
LIVINGSTON — Megan Gibson 2-3, Jacey Schleicher 2-4, Meadow Ingram 0-3, Cassidy Versland 0-4, Hailey Versland 2-3, Sierra Higgs 0-3, Vanessa Davaz 2-3, Mackenzie Corder 0-3, Emily Cornell 0-3.
BUTTE CENTRAL (1-2) — Shawnee Hjelt 1-4, Kate Ossello 1-2, Erin McGeehan 1-1, Mollie Peoples 0-4, Corbyn Holm 2-3, Rylee Green 3-4, Teresa Piazzola 2-3, Emily St. John 0-0, Taylor Wahl 0-2, Mikayla Boggs 1-3, Shelby Paffhausen 1-3, Courtney Thomas 0-0.
HR — Piazzola, Paffhausen, Green
2B — H. Versland; Hjelt, Piazzola.
RBIs — Davaz 2, H. Versland 2, Gibson; Green 3, Piazzola 3, McGeehan, Paffhausen. Peoples.