BUTTE — After knocking off Libby, Billings Central took the field with confidence and for good reason. They had just knocked around the Loggers for 12 runs earlier in the day. But Sadie Smith had the final say for the No. 1 seed Frenchtown Broncs, as she pitched a complete-game gem to defeat the Rams 5-3. 

Smith struck out four Rams and let her defense do the rest in a very efficient outing.

"She did a really nice job," said Frenchtown coach Eli Field. "Her location was tremendous. She made some really good pitches at some really big times."

Unfortunately for Billings Central, the difference in the game was a sort of a scary moment in the bottom of the second. With one on, left fielder Emma Bohrer collided with centerfielder Brynn Bohrer on a fly ball hit by Toni Beatty. Emma went down immediately and both runners came all the way around to score while Brynn made sure her sister was OK. Everyone turned out to be fine and remained in the game.

In a wild turn of events, in Beatty's next at bat, she hit a deep drive to left. Emma went back and robbed a would-be home run as she tumbled over the fence while maintaining control of the ball. 

Billings Central would find themselves on another emotional rollercoaster in the top of the sixth. With two on and two out, Winter Johnson drove an outside fastball to the opposite field. Two runs scored as the ball rolled to the right field wall, however Johnson was thrown out at third for the final out of the inning. 

In the bottom of the fifth, Shelby Miotke knocked in an insurance run with a solid single to center for Frenchtown, which made it 4-1.

Katie Brasher got the Rams on the board with a run-scoring single in the third. 

Maddy Eggers' RBI single in the first, scoring Cassidy Bagnell, got the Broncs on the board 1-0.

Peyton Whitehead pitched her second complete game of the day for Billings Central.

"In the postseason, everything contracts," Field said. "During the regular season you might win 10-0 or 11-0, but at the state tournament runs don't show up as easily. These kids are going to fight until the end — both sides."

Frenchtown is back at it Friday at 1 p.m. facing Laurel in a battle of No. 1 seeds. Billings Central will take on Glendive on Friday at 11 a.m. in the consolation bracket. 

Laurel's Crookston strikes out 16 in win over Havre

Laurel’s Ella Crookston notched a career-high 16 strikeouts in Thursday’s 10-4 win over Havre. Havre was held scoreless until the sixth inning.

Laurel has advanced to face Frenchtown Friday at 1 p.m. while Havre has dropped into the loser-out bracket. Havre will play Colombia Falls at 11 a.m..

“It was a good win, a good team win. But do we have a few things to work on as a team to get more solid,” said Laurel head coach Aleesa Olsen.

Laurel opened up the scoring in the first inning with four runs. Lexi Stahlman batted in two runs and then scored via RBI, Ella Crookston recorded an RBI to give the Locomotives a 4-0 lead.

Laurel’s lead remained untouched through the third inning, thanks in no small part to Crookston’s pitching. Crookston struck out the side in the second and allowed just one hit in the third. Laurel responded with four additional runs in the third.

Her pitching continued to stump batters as Havre remained scoreless through five innings. To add to Laurel’s impressive day, Taylor Feller hit a fifth inning home run to increase the lead to 9-0.

“Ella’s a great pitcher, she works hard every single time,” Oslen said. “She just set a personal record, she’s a very hard worker.”

Laurel may have gotten complacent with their game-long lead as they allowed two runs batted in by Havre’s Alyssa Oliver in the sixth. Oliver then stole third base but the next batter struck out.

After holding Laurel to one run in the seventh inning, Havre’s Lizzy Haney batted in two runs to shrink Laurel’s lead to 10-4.

“We need to string some more hits together before the next game,” Oslen said. “Keeping our hands high and driving through the ball.”

Lewistown advances past Livingston 13-9

After a hard-fought victory over Columbia Falls earlier in the day, Livingston lost to Lewistown 13-9 Thursday afternoon. Lewistown has advanced to play Polson Friday at 1 p.m..

Livingston tallied one run in the first inning, but Lewistown’s Jessica Morgan responded with a deep, two-run home run to put her team ahead. Livingston’s Skylar Higgs finished off the second inning with a strikeout.

"The biggest thing is that the first four innings we stayed disciplined and waited for pitches and did the little things right," said Mike Mangold. "We came out smoking but after four innings we kind of shut down."

Lewistown’s Karolyne Southword struck out for the first out in the second inning, but a bad throw to first from the catcher allowed the runner on third to score. Madison Affolder then hit one into the gap to drive in another run.

Livingston coach Julie Higgs said that limiting defensive errors was key to win against Lewistown. Unfortunately for Livingston, defensive errors were the reason for two Lewiston’s runs. Skylar Higgs, who coach Higgs described as the team’s best defensive player, was moved from pitcher to outfielder in the second inning.

Lewistown scored six runs in the second inning as base hits continued to lead to RBIs. But Livingston, like in their first game of the day, came back strong. Livingston scored five runs to make it an 8-6 game after the top of the third.

"Overall, I'm proud that the girls stayed competitive, they put their heads down and put runs on the board when we needed to. At the state tournament, every run counts," Mangold said.

With Ava Malone on the mound, Hailey Welsh batted in a run for Lewistown with two outs. The third looked to be threatening, but Lewistown stranded three runners to end the inning, holding an 11-6 lead.

After keeping Livingston off the scoreboard in the fourth inning, Chelsea Jensen hit two runs in to give Lewistown a 13-6 lead with two outs. A fly-ball in foul territory ended the inning.

Lewistown appeared to end the fifth inning after an out at third base, but Mangold plead his case that his player was safe.

"There's not much to improve on over an evening, it's just about getting our mental capacity back," Mangold said. "We have some girls that wish they had played a little bit better so we just have to make sure the mental game is solid for tomorrow."

After players went back to the dugout and the umpires met for a short time, the call on the field was changed and the runner was safe. The next better struck out, ending the inning with Lewistown leading 13-7.

Skylar Higgs batted in two runs, in what was nearly a home run in the sixth, to shrink the Lewistown lead to 13-9. Unfortunately for Livingston, they were unable to complete the comeback.

A workman-like victory for Polson as Pirates rout Corvallis

Nothing flashy, just a few timely hits and limited mistakes helped the No. 1 seed Polson Pirates cruise by the Corvallis Blue Devils 9-2. 

"That's been us all year," said Pirates coach Jami Hanson. "We just go out, take care of business and then it's onto the next."

Katelyne Druyvestein went 2-for-3 with a triple, a walk and two runs scored. She also pitched a complete-game gem and located all of her pitches masterfully, striking out 12 Blue Devils. 

Kobbey Smith added a pair of singles and Josie Caye had a two-run single for the Pirates, who are one of the favorites to win this tournament. 

The Corvallis offense did not get much going until the final frame, when Sydney Wolsky hit a solo home run on the first pitch she saw to get the Polson lead to 9-2. Macee Greenwood hit a double to the centerfield fence, but that would be all the Blue Devils mustered.

Polson advances to play Lewistown on Friday at 1 p.m. 

Havre downs Butte Central 6-3

Havre defeated Butte Central 6-3 on Thursday afternoon in the State A softball tournament in Butte. Havre has moved on to play Laurel at 5 p.m. while Butte Central has dropped into the loser-out bracket.

With few hits and quality pitching from Butte Central’s Maci Reopelle and Havre’s Lexi Haney, the game remained low-scoring through the first two innings. Maddi Kump, one of the Butte Central’s most consistent batters, hit in a run to give the Maroons a 2-1 lead going into the third inning.

“It’s a good win for us, kind of a battle but our pitcher did a good job,” said Havre coach Tony Vigliotti. “We put the ball in play when we needed to and you know, a win at the state tournament is a win at the state tournament.”

The Maroons were held scoreless in the third inning, which Havre took advantage of. After scoring two runs in the third, Havre led Butte Central 3-2 going into the fourth inning.

The offense picked up for Butte Central in the fourth, where the Maroons loaded the bases. But Haney showed patience on the mound, getting three consecutive outs and not allowing a run. Havre closed the fourth inning with two runs and a three-run lead.

“I think the battle was great. For most of these kids it’s the first time they’ve been to a state tournament,” said Vigliotti. “It’s a different atmosphere and a special experience. I’m proud of how we handled it, proud of the win.”

After a scoreless fifth inning, Butte Central’s Brooke Badovinac batted in a run to shrink Havre’s lead to 5-3 in the top of the sixth. But a sacrifice hit lifted the Havre lead to 6-3 going into the final inning.

After two quick outs in the seventh inning, Haney walked Mia Keely who advanced to third on a Brenna Foley ground rule double. Maggie Stimatz struck out, ending the game.

“We’ll do what we do like we have all year,” Vigliotti said. “We’ll play pitch-to-pitch, stay present, and stay positive. We’ll make some plays.”

Billings Central pulls away form Libby with big 7th inning

Peyton Whitehead threw a complete game, Winter Johnson hit a three-run homer, Monica Auch had three hits and the Billings Central Rams took down the Libby Loggers 12-7.

"We're the No. 3 seed so teams might overlook us," said Rams coach Coleman Rockwell. "But we're playing our best ball at the right time."

Billings Central scored first in the top of the first. Johnson had the green light on a 3-0 count and she made the most of it with a no-doubter. Libby immediately answered back, scoring three runs in the bottom of the frame. Loggers starting pitcher Taylor Monro brought home two runs with an RBI double. 

Monro did plenty to help her own cause, going 3-for-4 at the plate. She knocked in three and scored two runs to lead the Libby offense, in addition to pitching all seven innings.

It was the Libby defense that unfortunately became a problem, thanks to some untimely gusts of wind that led to a pair of dropped would-be fly ball outs in the top of the fifth. Add in some walks and throwing errors and Billings Central was able to build a 7-3 lead. 

Some more bad luck would be in store for Libby in the bottom of the 6th. Pinch hitter Mackenzie Foss smashed an RBI double to center. However, the ball rolled under the fence and so runners had to stop at second and third with only one run scoring. Libby plated another to make it 7-5 Rams as the game went into the final inning.

Billings Central came through with five more insurance runs to put it out of reach. The Loggers chipped away with two more in their half of the seventh, but the Rams would secure the win. 

Libby heads to the consolation bracket and will play at 9 a.m. Friday. Billings Central will take on Frenchtown at 5 p.m. later today.

Livingston wins back-and-forth game over Columbia Falls

The State A softball tournament began with an exciting, back-and-forth game between Livingston and Columbia Falls in Butte Thursday morning, where Livingston defeated Columbia Falls 13-11.

Livingston has advanced to play Lewistown at 3 p.m. and Columbia Falls dropped to the loser-out bracket.

“I was exhhilerated, I knew it would be this back-and-forth game that it was,” said Livingston head coach Julie Higgs. “It was like that when we played them the first game of the season and I knew it’d be like that today. But we brought the bats.”

It appeared to be a low-scoring defensive contest in the first inning, where Livingston’s Taylor Young kept Columbia Falls hitless with a diving catch in the outfield. But the landscape of the game changed in the bottom of the first.

With Columbia Falls’s Syd Mann on the mound, Skylar Higgs opened up the scoring with a home run beyond the centerfield fence. The very next batter, Marissa Taylor also homered. Erika Haines also batted in two runs, forcing a pitching change for Columbia Falls.

Despite giving up a big first inning, the Wildkats came back swinging in the second. Abbey Underhaul batted in 2 runs and another would score on a successful squeeze. This forced an early pitching change for Livingston, when Ava Malone took the mound and ended the inning.

Taylor Young hit a two-run home run to give Livingston a 6-3 lead after two innings. While Columbia Falls was able to load the bases, they were unable to score in the third. Solid pitching by Haden Peters held Livingston scoreless as well.

While Columbia Falls struggled to get the ball past the infield for the first three innings, their power hitting picked up in the fourth inning, ignited by a two-run home run by Aspen Dawson. The Wildkats had a massive, five-run fourth inning where they took their first lead of the game.

“When we went down we knew we had to hit our way out of it, there’s no small-balling when you’re down four or five runs,” Higgs said. “We kept that attitude and just pushed through it.”

Down 10-6, Livingston scored a run in the bottom of the fifth. But stellar pitching by Haden Peters got the Wildkats out of the inning with the bases loaded.

The Wildkats made a pitching change in the sixth inning where Madison Moultray took the mound. She walked the first batter but recovered for a key strikeout. Livingston, who scored on a dropped fly-ball in the outfield, would not back down, though.

With two outs, Livingston’s Skylar Higgs scored on a wild pitch to shrink the Columbia Falls lead to one run. Peters returned to the mound, but it was not enough to keep Livingston from regaining the lead. Livingston led 13-11 going into the seventh inning, thanks to a Erika Haines hit that scored two runs.

“I want to work on defense for the next game, we have to limit the errors or we will be sunk,” Higgs said.

Corvallis run-rules Glendive in 5 innings

Macee Greenwood and Gabby Krueger combined for a shutout as the Corvallis Blue Devils defeated the Glendive Red Devils 10-0 in five innings Thursday at Stodden Park to kick off the Class A softball state tournament. 

Corvallis scored first in the bottom of the second after a hit batter forced in a run, and an infield single by Emma Cashell brought home another to make it 2-0.

Glendive had its chances early on, as the Blue Devils pitchers wiggled out of jams in each of the first four innings. Glendive stranded seven runners on base during those frames. 

Corvallis exploded for eight runs in the bottom of the fifth. Katelyn Behner's RBI single, scoring Kaitlin McCartney from second, made it 10-0.

"I don't know why we always wait so long to get the bats going," said Corvallis coach Steve Tintzman. "Better late than never, I guess."

Behner finished 3-for-4 with a run scored for Corvallis, and McCartney went 2-for-4 with a run scored. Krueger tripled and scored a pair of runs. 

Braelyn Senner singled and walked for Glendive. Molly Eaton pitched all 4 2/3 innings.  

Greenwood started the game for Corvallis and Krueger took over in the third inning. Greenwood was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the previous half inning. The pitching change had nothing to do with Greenwood being hit by the pitch. 

Tintzman explained that this is how he's deployed the two pitchers for most of the season. The fact that Krueger came in after being hit by a pitch was just a coincidence. 

Corvallis went on to lose to No. 1 Polson. Glendive heads to the consolation side of the bracket and will play at 11 a.m. Friday.

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