Billings Senior takes on Billings West

Billings West's Morgan Stoppel catches a popup in the fifth inning of the game against Billings Senior at Central Park on Tuesday.

BILLINGS — Billings West softball coach Preston Sanders wouldn’t classify Halle Spring as a pleasant surprise.

Yes, her play has been pleasant. But even though Spring is getting her first shot at varsity ball, Sanders said Spring's .400-plus batting average and solid outfield play isn’t surprising.

Spring blasted a two-run homer over the center-field fence, and Kinzee Koch allowed just six hits in Billings West’s 4-2 Eastern AA softball win over Billings Senior Tuesday at Central Park.

Spring appeared as a pinch-runner in one game last season, but the sophomore has started this season 7-for-16 (.438). She made a couple fine defensive plays as well Tuesday night, including taking extra bases away from Jaida Ontiveros on a long running catch to open the bottom of the sixth and help preserve a 2-1 lead.

“She’s a good athlete,” Sanders said. “She hit very well for JV last year, she usually put its in play. She could be a very good outfielder. She works hard and she tries to get better every day.”

Leading 2-1 going into the seventh, Spring delivered a much-needed three-run cushion with none out in the top of the seventh when she sent an Ontiveros pitch sailing over the fence for her first home run of the season and a 4-1 lead.

Senior tried to rally in the seventh, getting a run on a Lauren Gordon triple and a Jensen Keller RBI groundout, but Koch finally shut the door when third baseman Chloe Nelson snagged a line drive by Cassidy Venner.

Koch and Nelson drove in first-inning runs on a bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice fly, respectively, to get West (2-2, 7-2) back into the win column after the Bears lost a doubleheader to Great Falls on Saturday. 

“It’s a work in progress but I like where we’re at,” Sanders said. “We’ll just keep getting better until divisionals get here and we’ll see what we can do.”

Broncs freshman Kennedy Venner followed up a fine varsity debut against Missoula Sentinel with another solid effort against the Bears. Though she struggled Monday against Billings Skyview, Venner allowed just two runs on three hits through six innings against the Bears. After giving up two first-inning runs, Venner threw five shutout innings before giving way to Ontiveros. But the Broncs’ bats couldn’t solve Koch to give much support.

Kara Conway drove in Senior’s first run on a third-inning sacrifice fly.

The Broncs fell to 0-2 in the Eastern AA and 3-3 overall.

"We've got a lot of season left," Senior coach Lisa Shulund said. "The beginning of your season isn't what defines your season."

Email Mike Scherting at mike.scherting@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsSchert

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