By Bill Foley
Belle Surginer set up the Maroons, and Kelcie Sargent knocked them down.
Surginer struck out 18 Butte Central batters, and Sargent hit a back-breaking double Tuesday afternoon as the Vigilante’s topped the Maroons 6-3 in a Southwestern A softball game at Stodden Park.
Surginer struck out the side four times. She also got the Maroons looking on eight occasions through the first four innings.
“We were all swinging at her rise ball,” Butte Central coach Bill “Chunky” Thatcher said.
Central’s coach said the backward K’s came from high pitch, too.
“How’d they get there?” Thatcher asked rhetorically. “Swinging at the high pitch. She set them up pretty well.”
Lost in Surginer’s performance was the work of Butte Central junior Hattie Mehring.
Mehring, who was thrust into the pitcher’s circle because of a knee injury to Sofee Thatcher, struck out eight batters. She was the victim of four unearned runs thanks to four BC errors over the first two innings.
Coach Thatcher said the two earned runs surrendered weren’t Mehring’s fault, either. Thatcher blamed Sargent’s two-run double on where he positioned right fielder Renee Creekmore.
“They really weren’t even earned runs,” Thatcher said. “That’s on me. I pulled Renee in, in case it was in front of her so she’d have a shot at getting them at home. Murphy’s Law.”
East Helena, which improved to 2-3 in conference and 3-4 overall, scored one more in the first. They scored three more in the second, with two of them coming in on a double by Rilie Stephenson.
Mehring, though, stayed strong and the BC defense settled down as the game went on.
“She’s getting stronger on the mound,” Thatcher said of Mehring, who did not play softball high school softball until this year. She had not pitched since she was in seventh grade.
“If we don’t get Sofee back, she’s going to have to pack us,” Thatcher said.
Central got two back in the fourth inning. Mehring worked a leadoff walk before Central shortstop Brooke Badovinac blasted a wind-aided triple to right field. Badovinac came home when Creekmore hit a ground ball and then reached on a throwing error.
Things got really interesting in the sixth inning. Badovinac led off the inning with a single and took two bases on a throwing error.
Surginer struck out two batters before Badovinac came racing home on a wild pitch. She scored just before Maggie Stimatz singled.
The Vigilantes, though, cashed in with some insurance runs in the top of the seventh.
No. 9 hitter Kaitlyn McGorver singled before Stephenson worked a walk. Then Sargent smacked a double to the gap in right center.
Sargent was gunned down at third — on a nice throw from Badovinac to third baseman Jaeden Berger — trying to stretch the hit to a triple. The damage was still done, however.
Badovinac went 2 for 3 to lead the Maroon offense. Mehring doubled, while Brenna Foley joined Stimatz with a single.
Thatcher said the Maroons just made too many mistakes early in the game.
Despite the loss, Thatcher said he could see signs of improvement from his team. One was a Willie Mays Hayes catch by freshman Krista Winnings in left field.
“She’s a freshman who’s never played,” Thatcher said. “She went to the ball. She’s learning.”
The Maroons also turned a pair of double plays. Stimatz filed the ball at first, stepped on the bag and fired home to catcher Mia Keeley to nab Surginer at the plate in the fifth inning. Mehring caught a liner and gunned to first to double off Taylor Field in the fourth.
Central, which fell to 1-3 and 1-5, will learn more about the extent of Sofee Thatcher’s injury on Thursday. On Friday, BC will play the first two of four games at a tournament in Frenchtown.
Central will play Lewistown and Frenchtown on Friday. They take on Libby and Mission on Saturday.
East Helena 130 000 2 — 6 5 3
Butte Central 000 201 0 — 3 5 4
Belle Surginer and Ella Pickett; Hattie Mehring and Mia Keeley. W — Surginger. L — Mehring.
EAST HELENA (2-3, 3-4) — Rilie Stephenson 1-2, Kelcie Sargent 1-3, Surginer 1-4, Pickett 0-4, Nieva George 1-2, Maddie Hogue 0-3, Taylor Field 0-2, Paige Clayton 0-2, Jayden Christopher 0-1, Kaitlyn McGorver 1-3.
BUTTE CENTRAL (1-3, 1-5) — Keeley 0-4, Brenna Foley 1-4, Mehring 1-2, Brooke Badovinac 2-3, Jaeden Berger 0-3, Renee Creekmore 0-3, Maggie Stimatz 1-3, Cloe Stillwagon 0-3, Vanessa West 0-3; Krista Winnings 0-0.
3B — Badovinac. 2B — Stephenson, Sargent, Surginer; Mehring. RBIs — Sargent 2, Stephenson 2; Badovinac, Creekmore.