Walks, McClafferty power Bulldogs past Hawks

This Tristan Walks is no one-hit wonder.
The senior right fielder blasted her team-leading third home run of the season Tuesday to break open a tight game and lead Butte High to a 7-2 Eastern AA Conference high school softball win over Bozeman at Stodden Park.
The game was the reschedule of one snowed out a week earlier. Temperatures were far different Tuesday, probably pressing the 70s as Walks continued her hot hitting streak. Having slugged her way off the bench and into a starting role, Walks, batting at the end of the order, was 2-for-3 with the 3-run homer she walloped over the center-field fence in the sixth inning. Her other hit was a leadoff double in the third.
“I think I just finally understand what (the coaches) have been teaching me,” Walks said about her hitting of late. “It’s starting to become clear — load, keep your eye on the ball and keep smacking it.”
Walks said the Bulldogs spend about half of each practice working on hitting. The routine includes hitting live pitching, then going into the batting cage to work on bunting and then hitting off of a tee.
“Load (rocking to the back foot and cocking the bat), step and go,” she said, demonstrating the swing.
Butte High took a 3-1 edge into the bottom of the sixth inning, thanks in large part to the pitching of freshman Kaidy McClafferty, who fanned 10 batters on the day. Bethany McLean started the Bulldog half of the inning with a base hit and, one out later, Katelyn Alley belted a single to left field. Abby Burke went in to run for Alley.
Isabelle Bonney hit into a fielder’s choice and then Walks powered her home run out over center field.
“I don’t know what (kind of pitch) I hit,” Walks said. “I just try to keep my eye on it and do my best. I’m so slow, I concentrate on trying to get to first, first.”
Butte High scored once more in the inning. Ashten McCloskey lined a shot off the pitching arm of Hope Titchbourne that caused the Bozeman hurler to leave the game in pain. Casey Stites was summoned from center field to take over. McCloskey got to third base on an error, then scored on a wild pitch.
McClafferty escaped a jam in the top of the seventh to nail down the win, her fifth in nine decisions. University of Montana softball commit Sydney Stites led off for the Hawks with a single to left. Faith Perrins popped out behind the plate to catcher Maria Michelotti and then Kayley Wenzel singled to center, moving Stites to third base. Kayla Nielsen lifted a floater behind first base and Butte High second baseman Ashten McCloskey made the catch for the second out, but was unable to prevent Stites from scoring on the sacrifice fly. Ava Laufenberg singled to center before the game ended with McClafferty inducing Hailey Buckley into a fielder’s choice groundout.
“Getting those insurance runs at the end was great,” Butte High head coach Ryan Stosich said. “Walks got that big hit. She’s really been hitting the ball. Even her out (a line drive at Perrins, Bozeman’s third baseman) was hard. She’s gotten some confidence and has been working and working on her hitting. She took advantage of her full opportunity today.”
The coach pointed, too, to McLean breaking from a minor slump with a 3-for-3 day at the plate, and to the pitching of McClafferty as important parts in the victory.
“It was good to see McLean break out,” he said. “McClafferty keeps us in games. She gives us opportunities to win. She’s a tough kid.”
McClafferty and Bozeman pitcher Hope Titchbourne matched shutout innings until the third when the Hawks took a 1-0 lead on Stites’ leadoff home run. Butte High tied the score in the bottom of the inning on back-to-back doubles by Walks and McCloskey.
The Bulldogs took the 3-1 edge in the fourth. Amanda Spear led off with a ground-rule double and McLean singled her to third ahead of the throw to Perrins at the bag. McLean took second on the throw. Justyce Connole brought in Spear with a sacrifice fly and Isabelle Bonney singled pinch runner Jenna Walker home.
McClafferty walked three batters and scattered eight hits.
Butte High will play at Billings Senior on Friday and at Billings Skyview on Saturday in doubleheaders. The first game with Senior will be an Eastern AA Conference game and both games with Skyview will count in the league standings. The Bulldogs are 4-2 in confernence contests, 6-7 overall. Bozeman dropped to 0-6 in Eastern AA, 1-8 for the year.

Bozeman 001 000 1 — 2 8 2
Butte High 001 204 x — 7 12 1
Hope Titchbourne, Casey Stites (6) and Ava Laufenberg. Kaidy McClafferty and Maria Michelotti. W — McClafferty (5-4). L — Titchbourne.
BOZEMAN (1-8, 0-6) — Sydney Stites 2-3, Faith Perrins 1-3, Kayley Wenzel 2-3, Hope Titchbourne 0-3, Kayla Nielson 0-0, Ava Laufenberg 1-4, Hailey Buckley 1-4, Olivia Kack 1-3, Casey Stites 0-1, Taylor Martin 0-0, Kameron Bayse 0-3.
BUTTE HIGH (6-7, 4-2) — Ashten McCloskey 3-4, Kennedi Ferriter 1-4, Maria Michelotti 0-3, Ellie Hoffenbacker 0-1, Amanda Spear 1-3, Bethany McLean 3-3, Jenna Walker 0-0, Justyce Connole 0-2, Katelyn Alley 1-2, Abby Burke 0-0, Isabelle Bonney 1-3, Tristan Walks 2-3.
Extra-Base hits — 2B — Walks, McCloskey, Spear. HR — S. Stites, Walks (3).
Runs batted in — Bozeman 2 (S. Stites 1, Nielson 1), Butte High 6 (Walks 3, McCloskey 1, Connole 1, Bonney 1).

Freshman pitcher Kaidy McClafferty delivers a pitch in her 10-strikeout performance.
Freshman pitcher Kaidy McClafferty delivers a pitch in her 10-strikeout performance.