Butte High languished through a softball day of being just short, including on the scoreboard, Saturday as the Bulldogs fell twice to Kalispell Glacier, 6-2 and 6-5, in a nonconference Class AA doubleheader.
On a lot of days and against many other opponents, the sweep could have gone the other way. Glacier, though, the Western Conference co-leader, was too good to succumb to anything less than superb play. Butte High batters pounded big hits, but not the clutch, winning one. The pitchers threw tough, but still were touched for runs in most inopportune times. Defense was steady, but occasionally imploded in crucial moments. Center fielder Justyce Connole’s sizzling throw from center field to cut down a Glacier runner at the plate was the gem of the good defensive plays. The runner was trying to score on a sacrifice fly and the Wolfpack didn’t test Connole’s arm again.
The Wolfpack was always at the ready to capitalize, especially in the first game when Bulldog opportunities were much fewer against ace Ali Williams, perhaps Class AA’s best pitcher.
“They’re tied for first place in the other conference for a reason,” Butte High head coach Ryan Stosich said after the doubleheader at Stodden Park. “(Williams) is really a good one and she’s only a junior. That’s a good team and we will learn from today. Then, hopefully, we’ll step up the next time when we need to.”
Making the play, throwing the pitch or coming up with the clutch hit is the stepping up the coach would like to see. The Bulldogs could have beaten many teams Saturday, especially behind some pretty good pitching by freshmen Katlyn O’Brien and Kaidy McClafferty, but was unable to seize the moment.
“We had a couple of big hits, like that home run (a blast far over the left-field fence in the second game) by (Tristan) Walks,” the coach said. “We needed some more.”
Butte High ruined some scoring chances with baserunning gaffes, including being caught in a rundown and failing on a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity as a runner got picked off first base after a strikeout for a double play.
“Baserunning? I don’t want to comment,” Stosich said, “for fear of what I might say. We might have been too aggressive.”
Not all was bad, however, even in losing both ends of the twin bill. The Bulldogs competed and continued to show promise from its younger members. The losses put them at 5-7 for the season.
The team will be looking for more improvement on Tuesday when Butte High is home against Bozeman for a 4 p.m. Eastern AA Conference game at Stodden Park. It is the makeup game for one wiped out by a snowstorm April 14. The Bulldogs are 3-2 in conference play.
Saturday’s games marked Glacier’s first ever in Butte in softball.
Kalispell Glacier 6, Butte High 2
Williams struck out 11, allowed only four hits, batted in a run, slugged a home run, walloped a double and scored three times in leading the Wolfpack victory. She gave up three hits. She chalked up nine of her strikeouts in the first three innings, giving her team time to build a 5-0 lead.
Glacier took a 2-0 lead in the first as Christina DuFour led off with a walk, Williams smacked a one-out double and Erin McHugh followed with a two-run single. Ali Newton doubled to lead off the second and scored on a groundout by Katie Wiley. The Wolfpack run in the third came without a hit as Williams walked, McHugh put down a sacrifice, and courtesy runner Sarah Stern then stole third base and came home on an error. Williams’ one-out solo shot over the left-field fence in the fifth took the Glacier lead to 5-0.
The Bulldogs didn’t score until the sixth and had been held to a first-inning infield hit by Maria Michelotti the first five innings. In the sixth, Ashten McCloskey reached on an error and Kennedi Ferriter followed with a bunt single. Michelotti delivered McCloskey home with a base hit to left field. Amanda Spear walked to load the bases and Bethany McLean lifted a sacrifice fly to left field to score Ferriter before Williams evaded further damage with a strikeout and a groundout.
Glacier tacked on the last run in the seven on a bases-loaded single by McHugh.
Jenna Walker plopped a double into left field with one out for Butte High in the bottom of the seventh, but she was left there after Williams struck out one batter and stabbed the line drive of another.
O’Brien struck out four and walked five going the distance for Butte High.
Kalispell Glacier 211 010 1 — 6 8 2
Butte High 000 002 0 — 2 4 1
Ali Williams and Christine Connelly. Katlyn O’Brien and Maria Michelotti. W — Williams. L — O’Brien (0-3).
KALISPELL GLACIER — Christina DuFour 1-3, Kayla Russell 1-4, Ali Williams 2-2, Sarah Stern 0-0, Erin McHugh 2-2, MacKenzie Brester-Knight 0-2, Kayleena Ikeda 0-3, Ali Newton 1-3, Christine Connelly 1-3, Katie Wiley 0-3.
BUTTE HIGH (5-6) — Ashten McCloskey 0-3, Kennedi Ferriter 1-4, Maria Michelotti 1-3, Amanda Spear 0-1, Bethany McLean 0-2, Justyce Connole 0-3, Katelyn Alley 0-3, Isabelle Bonney 0-3, Jenna Walker 1-3.
Extra-base hits — 2B — Williams, Newton, Russell, Walker. HR — Williams.
Runs batted in — Glacier 5 (McHugh 3, Williams 1, Wiley 1), Butte High 2 (Michelotti 1, McLean 1).
Kalispell Glacier 6, Butte High 5
Butte High’s rally died with the bases loaded and two runs already in during the bottom of the seventh inning. Glacier had scored three times in the top of the inning to take a 6-3 lead in a surge that included a two-run homer by winning pitcher McHugh.
In the bottom of the seventh, Walks stroked a one-out single to center field. Walker replaced her on the basepaths and took second base on a wild pitch. An out later, Walker went to third on a wild pitch, then scored on a base hit smashed by Ferriter, her third hit of the game, over the third-base bag. Bases on balls were issued to Michelotti and Amanda Spear and then Ellie Hoffenbacker reached on an error as Ferriter raced home. McHugh struck out the next batter after a long battle at the plate to end the game.
The Wolfpack late lead came when DuFour walked and Kayla Russell singled with one out. The runners moved up a bag on a wild pitch and Williams brought in one with a groundout before McHugh launched the home run over the center-field fence.
The teams began the game with each scoring a run in the first inning. DuFour singled, went to second on a wild pitch, third on an error and home on a groundout. Butte High answered with a home run Ferriter lined just inside the left field foul pole.
Glacier manufactured a run in the third as Wiley singled, went to second on a sacrifice, third on a wild pitch and home as Williams lined a hit off the pitching hand of McClafferty. The Butte High pitcher fell to the ground, but recovered after several moments to finish the game.
“They’d have been taking me out on a stretcher,” Stosich commented about the scary incident.
McClafferty struck out the next batter, McHugh, to end the inning.
The Wolfpack added a run in the fourth for a 3-1 advantage. MacKenzie Brester-Knight was safe on an error, took second base on a sacrifice and scored on a double by Christine Connelly.
Butte High, though, tied the score with two runs in the last of the sixth. Freshman Madison Joseph led off as a pinch hitter and swung at the first varsity pitch she saw. She clubbed it into the left-field corner for a double. One out later, Walks, also pinch-hitting, powered her home run tying the score.
McHugh struck out seven batters and walked two in picking up the win. McClafferty had four strikeouts and three walks.
Kalispell Glacier 101 100 3 — 6 7 2
Butte High 100 020 2 — 5 9 3
Erin McHugh and Christine Connelly. Kaidy McClafferty and Maria Michelotti. W — McHugh. L — McClafferty (4-4).
KALISPELL GLACIER — Christina DuFour 1-2, Kayla Russell 1-4, Ali Williams 1-3, Erin McHugh 1-4, MacKenzie Brester-Knight 1-4, Kayleena Ikeda 0-3, Emma Shew 0-0, Ali Newton 0-1, Alivia Atlee 0-1, Christine Connelly 1-3, Katie Wiley 1-3.
BUTTE HIGH (5-7, 3-2) — Ashten McCloskey 1-3, Kennedi Ferriter 3-4, Maria Michelotti 0-3, Amanda Spear 1-3, Jenna Maroney 0-0, Bethany McLean 0-1, Ellie Hoffenbacker 1-2, Justyce Connole 0-3, Brianna Ossello 0-1, Katelyn Alley 0-2, Madison Joseph 1-1, Isabelle Bonney 0-3, Jenna Walker 0-1, Tristan Walks 2-2.
Extra-base hits — 2B — Connelly, Ferriter, Joseph. HR — McHugh, Ferriter (1), Walks (1).
Runs batted in — Glacier 5 (Williams 2, McHugh 2, Connelly 1), Butte High 4 (Ferriter 2, Walks 2).