FRENCHTOWN – It’s a sports proverb taken as fact: A ball – be it soft or base – just doesn’t fly as far when it’s cold.
Try telling that to the Frenchtown Broncs.
Frenchtown smacked four home runs and powered past Polson 17-5 on Tuesday in a rematch of last year’s State A championship. The Broncs softball team connected on three home runs in the bottom of the sixth inning alone to send home early the few dozen fans who’d braved the breezy and chilly conditions, ending the bout early via the 10-run margin rule.
The final blow came off the bat of No. 9 hitter Laci Willett, her three-run bomb well beyond the center field fence to finish the game with emphasis. Vanessa Stavish blasted her own two-run homer – her second of the game – just five batters earlier and Keegan Wickman followed that up with a solo shot for back-to-back jacks off Polson starting pitcher Jessica Bagnell.
“That was crazy!” Stavish gushed. “We finally got used to her pitching; it’s the first time we’d seen it this year. Coming out here and getting used to it, we just started hitting the ball.”
Early on this one looked headed for a much closer finish, shades of the 2013 title game that Frenchtown won 2-1 in extra innings perhaps. Frenchtown’s ace Morgan Ray struggled with her location, throwing 80 pitches through three innings and allowing her first runs of the season. She walked four in that span.
After Frenchtown (1-0 in Northwestern A, 4-0 overall) scored three in the bottom of the first, courtesy of a Wickman two-run double and a Krista Hebnes RBI single, Polson (1-1, 5-1) responded with three of its own in the top of the second. The runs bookended a brief stoppage in play as light snow and heavy, wicked winds forced both teams to the dugouts and fans to the warm embraces of their vehicles.
“Our philosophy is just put the bat on the ball, attack the ball and don’t try to do anything like go for those home runs,” Polson coach Larry Smith said. “Just put the ball in play. We want somebody besides the pitcher to have to play defense.
“They were feeling pretty good about themselves,” Smith added of his players after the early answer. “That’s the way it should have been, just a good old fashioned heavyweight fight from then on.”
But the Broncs kept scoring in bunches – two runs or more in each of the next three innings. Kayla Blood drove one in before Ray doubled home a pair to help herself in the second; Frenchtown went small ball in the third for two more runs; Stavish crushed her first homer for another three in the fourth.
“It definitely helps to have some back-up scores because I can relax a little bit,” said Ray, who didn’t walk a batter after the third inning and struck out eight. “It was a tough game for me, but I had great defense back there that helped me out so many times and our offense pulled through.”
Ray, a junior hurler who’s carried the Broncs enough times for a career already, saw her teammates repay the favor from the field Tuesday. Polson leadoff hitter Jaylin Kenney – a cool 3 for 4 batting in this one against the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year – led off the game with a single before Jaiden Toth drew a four-pitch walk. The duo moved up to second and third base with two outs on a sacrifice fly.
Wickman, the third baseman, picked a sharply hit grounder into the hole on the left side from Kaelen Wall and hit Stavish at first base a half step ahead of the runner for the third out, Stavish using all 6 feet of her frame on the stretch to end the inning with no damage done.
Josie Anderson had a pair of gems in a row to end the top of the sixth and Polson’s final push. Kenney laced a low liner to center field that the Bronc had to catch on the run heading in toward second base for the second out of the inning. Toth took her all the way to the fence in left-center a batter later, but Anderson tracked it down with a lunge near the fence for the third out.
It was Ray’s first 1-2-3 inning.
“Both teams really wanted this win, I mean it is the state rematch,” said Stavish, whose five RBIs were a game-high, Willett’s four a close second. “Morgan got it done for us in the circle tonight; I know she doesn’t think it was her best game, but we were completely fine with the way it ended. We hit the ball for her and helped her out.”
The batting line for Frenchtown looked like a revised Murderers’ Row by game’s end. Ray, Wickman, Hebnes and Brooke Yarnall each had three hits, part of the Broncs’ 19 for the evening. Blood, Stavish and Willett added two apiece in the victory.
Notes: Polson scored two unearned in the fifth inning. ... Polson pitcher Jessica Bagnell struck out five and walked none. ... Eight of Frenchtown’s starters recorded a hit.
Frenchtown 17, Polson 5
Polson 030 020 – 5 7 2
Frenchtown 332 306 – 17 19 1
Jessica Bagnell and Jaylin Kenney. Morgan Ray and Brooke Yarnall. W – Ray. L – Bagnell.
POLSON – Kenney 3-4, Jaiden Toth 1-3, Bagnell 0-3, Hannah Potter 1-2, Kaelen Wall 1-3, Taylor Brackey 1-2, Sarah Rausch 0-2, Kyrie Bitterman 0-3, Lydia Dupuis 0-3.
FRENCHTOWN – Kayla Blood 2-4, Josie Anderson 1-4, Ray 3-3, Vanessa Stavish 2-4, Keegan Wickman 3-4, Krista Hebnes 3-4, Yarnall 3-4, Emma Pyron 0-3, Laci Willett 2-4, Haley Cyr 0-1.
BY BLAKE HEMPSTEAD ANACONDA — The Copperheads’ first inning lead just wasn’t enough to keep the visiting Broncs at bay, falling 14-4 in Tuesday’s battle for first place in the Southwestern A Conference at Charlotte Yeoman Martin Sports Complex.
Anaconda jumped all over Hamilton hurler Brie Clifford in the first en route to an early 4-0. However Clifford adjusted to the blustery conditions nicely from then on. After allowing four runs on three hits in the opening inning, Clifford scattered three hits from there on out.
Clifford struck out 13 and walked three in the 98-pitch outing — 64 of which were strikes — helping the Broncs to a 4-0 Southwestern A mark to sit alone atop the league standings.
The Copperheads dropped to 2-1 in conference and 2-3 overall in their home opener.
Sophomore pitcher Andi Mavrinac delivers the pitch in the first against Hamilton.
Sophomore starter Andi Mavrinac pitched in some daunting conditions against the best offense in the league, and finally succumbed to both after being chased in the fourth with no outs and a runner on second. Junior Kristy Hayden came on in relief to finish it out for the Copperheads.
Struggling to find the strike zone early due to the windy conditions, Mavrinac was forced to keep the ball over the middle half. Hamilton’s offense feasted on the offerings, pounding out 14 hits.
Anaconda remained within reach at 8-4 until the Broncs’ blew it open in the sixth with six runs — all with two outs — highlighted by a three-run home run to deep left center by Taylor Reynolds.
Now with a big lead, Clifford began to cruise. The final eight outs of the game came via strikeout, and besides a one-out triple by Courtney Moodry in the second, Anaconda couldn’t advance a baserunner past second due to the brilliance of the Broncs’ pitcher.
Courtney Moodry kept her torrid assault on opposing pitching staffs on display, going 3-for-3 with a triple and a run scored. She has now hit safely in each game and in nine straight at bats, has at least two hits in each game and is now batting .700 (14-20). Sophomore Kassie Flores singled and led the team with two RBIs and Sarah Schaefer and Lacee Moodry each collected a hit apiece in the loss.
Anaconda will be back in action against Dillon on Thursday at home. Game time is scheduled for 3 p.m. and can be heard live on KANA 580 AM and kana580.com. Anaconda beat Dillon two weeks ago 16-2.
Tayler Reynolds racked up three RBIs on two hits for Hamilton Lady Broncs Varsity. She singled in the third inning and homered in the fourth inning.
Brie struck out 13, paving the way for a Hamilton Lady Broncs Varsity win. Brie allowed three earned runs on six hits and three walks over six innings.
Andy Mavrinac took the loss for Anaconda High School. She allowed seven runs in three innings, walked five and struck out three.
In the bottom of the first, Anaconda High School grabbed the early lead, 4-0. Courtney Moodry got things going for Anaconda High School with a single. A single by Lacee Moodry then moved Courtney from first to second. Yassie Flores singled, plating Courtney and Lacee. The scoreboard lit up again for Anaconda High School when Schaefer scored on a wild pitch and Flores scored on a wild pitch.
After posting two runs in the second, Hamilton Lady Broncs Varsity again scored two in the third. In the second, Hamilton Lady Broncs Varsity scored on a walk by McKayl Rothie, plating Sydney Bergren.
Hamilton Lady Broncs Varsity tied the game in the third on a passed ball that scored Shaylan.
Hamilton Lady Broncs Varsity never surrendered the lead after the fourth inning, scoring three runs on a three-run home run by Tayler.
Cassi Miller was great on Tuesday, throwing a no-hitter in the Fergus Golden Eagles Varsity's 11-0 victory over Stillwater.
No Stillwater batter was able to locate Cassi's pitches during the game. Cassi threw a no-hitter, striking out seven batters and walking two while recording her momentous feat. She got SHELBY MCMILLEN to fly out for the final out of the game.
Maddie Comes blasted two home runs for the Fergus Golden Eagles Varsity. Maddie went 2-2 in the game with two RBIs and two runs scored. Maddie homered in the first and second innings.
The Fergus Golden Eagles Varsity's bats came to life in the second inning. The Fergus Golden Eagles Varsity's bats caught fire leading to seven runs.
Home runs for the Fergus Golden Eagles Varsity came when Maddie homered in the first and second innings, Teale Danell homered in the second inning, and Karlie Southworth homered in the fourth inning.
The Fergus Golden Eagles Varsity went up for good in the first, scoring two runs on a solo home run by Maddie.
The Fergus Golden Eagles Varsity pushed across one run in both the third inning and the fourth. In the third, the Fergus Golden Eagles Varsity scored on an RBI single by Teale, scoring Shelby Alexander.