BY BLAKE HEMPSTEAD
Starting on Friday at 1 p.m., six teams with hopes of advancing to the State A softball tournament will converge on Charlotte Yeoman Martin Sports Complex for the inaugural Southwestern A Divisional tournament.
Before this year, the league advanced the top three teams after conference play finished up. From now on, the conference will play a divisional tournament to determine the three teams fortunate enough to advance to State.
During the season, Hamilton and Butte Central each recorded a 9-1 conference record after splitting their regular-season contests. However, Hamilton won the tiebreaker via run differential and was awarded the No. 1 overall seed heading into the conference tournament. Both Nos. 1 and 2 seeds will earn first round byes.
Anaconda came in third with a 6-4 conference record, sweeping Stevensville, Corvallis and Dillon and losing both games to the top two seeds, follwed by Stevensville, Dillon and Corvallis.
The first round will feature Corvallis at Anaconda and Dillon at Stevi at 1 p.m. The winner of Corvallis-Anaconda will face Butte Central while the winner of Dillon-Stevi will take on top seeded Hamilton. Those semifinal games will start at approximately 4 p.m.
Loser out games will start Saturday morning at 9 a.m. The undefeated finals and third-fourth place games will start at approximately noon. The second-third place game will begin immediately after the noon loser out contest followed by the winner advancing to the championship scheduled to start at 4 p.m. In necessary, the second championship game will be held afterwards.
Watching all the teams at least once, I’ll try to outline the strengths of each team coming in to the divisional.
Record: 16-4, 9-1
Head coach: Jason Goligoski
Strengths: Hamilton boasts one of the two best pitchers in the conference in senior Brie Clifford, arguably the best team defensively including a dangerous top half of the order. Junior short stop Taylor Goligoski is the best at her position in the league, and is the top five overall players in the SW-A. Hamilton offers the ability to hit for average with McKayl Rothie, Goligoski and Clifford, and power, with Nos. 4-5 hitters Taylor Reynolds and Shayla Mohn.
BUTTE CENTRAL MAROONS
Record: 14-6, 9-1
Head coach: Kelcie Thatcher
Strengths: First-year head coach Kelcie Thatcher has the luxury of having one of the top two pitchers in the conference in Teresa Piazzola – and she’s only a sophomore. Unfortunately, Piazzola has been battling a hip/back injury suffered two weeks ago, significant enough to chase her from the BC-Anaconda game in the first inning last week. Their infield is solid on the corners and up the middle, rivaling Hamilton for their overall defensive ability. Although their power numbers aren’t very high, their 1-9 hitters all have gap ability. Freshman short stop Taylor Wahl isn’t flashy, but she anchors down the left side of the infield with senior third baseman Ryley Green nicely. I would vote Wahl the freshman co-defensive MVP of the league with Corvallis’ Corrine Sanderson.
Record: 10-10, 6-4
Head coach: Dotsie Shafer
Strengths: Anaconda is probably the preeminent power hitting team in the conference thanks to Nos. 3 and 4 hitters Delaney Chapman and Sara Schaefer. Throw in senior catcher Courtney Moodry, who I believe should be the league MVP – both offensively and defensively – and a lineup that strikes out very little, and Anaconda is a threat to win every game they play. Defensively, Schaefer is top three at third base, and teamed up with sophomore short stop Kassie Flores, make up one of the best left sides in the league. Anaconda’s outfield collectively is one of the best in the conference with Lacee Moodry, Julia Peterson and Hanna Schaefer in left, center and right fields. The best hitters in Anaconda’s lineup may be leadoff Courtney Moodry and No. 9 hitter Hanna Schaefer – who would be my choice for freshman offensive MVP. Depth of pitching is also a plus for the Copperheads. Junior Kristy Hayden, sophomore Andi Mavrinac and freshman Mikayla Courtright all have varsity starts and wins this season, a big plus heading into tournaments that could call for several back to back games.
Record: 8-11, 3-7
Head coach: Joey Wark
Strengths: Junior pitcher Carly Vercruyssen is most likely the team MVP and one of the most versatile in all of the Southwestern A, but being one of the youngest teams in the league has resulted in some growing pains at times. Many of the teams losses have been close affairs, which could prove beneficial heading into the tournament. Although the Yellowjackets haven’t showed much power this season, the top half of the lineup is more than capable of putting up runs in bunches with Jenna Lockman, Vercruyssen, Cambrea Beller and Callie Lendman.
Record: 6-12, 2-8
Head coach: Andrea Schurg
Strengths: In just their first year of competitive play following one year of JV ball, Dillon proved to be tougher than expected. From start to finish, the Beavs improved significantly all season making them more than just a pushover heading into the tournament. Dillon hit a snag in the middle of their season when several players were injured in a car accident, but should be at or near full strength starting Friday.
CORVALLIS BLUE DEVILS
Record: 4-16, 1-9
Head coach: Brett Shelagowski
Strengths: Corvallis is the scrappiest team in the conference and, in my opinion, has the best defensive left side in freshman third baseman Corrine Sanderson and sophomore short stop Kira Doyle. Offensively, sophomore Taia Tulley (CF), Sanderson, Doyle and Taylor Gagnon (P) anchor down a solid 1-4 lineup. Corvallis is probably the best team in terms of speed on the bases as well, which should surprise nobody with their seemingly never ending supply of speed and distance runners in their elementary and middle school feeder programs. Although they have had their struggles this season, expect the young Blue Devils to compete for bragging rights in the Southwestern A for years to come.
TOP PLAYERS BY POSITION
Teresa Piazzola, Butte Central
Brie Clifford, Hamilton
Carly Vercruyssen, Stevi
Kristy Hayden, Anaconda
Courtney Moodry, Anaconda
Kate Ossello, Butte Central
Brandi Lovaas, Dillon
Shayla Mohn, Hamilton
Delaney Chapman, Anaconda
Mollie Peoples, Butte Central
Shawnee Hjelt, Butte Central
Chloe Worl, Anaconda
Lauren Dolcater, Hamilton
Sara Schaefer, Anaconda
Corrine Sanderson, Corvallis
McKayl Rothie, Hamilton
Rylee Green, Butte Central
Taylor Goligoski, Hamilton
Kira Doyle, Corvallis
Taylor Wahl, Butte Central
Kassandra Flores, Anaconda
Cassidy McGree, Butte Central
Kloie Nye, Hamilton
Lacee Moodry, Anaconda
Tayler Reynolds, Hamilton
Shelby Paffhausen, Butte Central
Jenna Lockman, Stevi
Taia Tully, Corvallis
Hanna Schaefer, Anaconda
Sydney Bergren, Hamilton
Emily St. John, Butte Central
Copperheads putting up some impressive numbers heading into SW-A divisional
BY BLAKE HEMPSTEAD
On the eve of the Southwestern A Divisional Softball Tournament, I thought detailing just how good Anaconda has been offensively this year was prudent.
Thanks to the help from the Copperhead coaching staff, the final official numbers from the regular season were tallied. And some of the numbers are remarkable.
It’s no secret Courtney Moodry is one of if not the best ever Copperhead softball player in the short history of the school, and seeing that she leads or is tied with five offensive categories should surprise nobody. Moodry is tied with cousin Lacee Moodry with 74 official plate appearances and leads the team in hits (37), doubles (8), triples (5) and batting average (.500).
One of the brightest spots offensively for the team has been the power numbers they’ve produced. The Copperheads have 53 extra base hits with 38 doubles, seven triples and eight home runs to prove the team is one of the best teams in the Southwestern A in the power category.
Senior third baseman Sara Schaefer has hit four round trippers and classmate Delaney Chapman’s 17 RBIs in the Nos. 3 and 4 spots in the lineup, leading the Copperheads in each respective category.
Senior second baseman Chloe Worl has quietly anchored the bottom half of the order, leading the team with an on base percentage of .654 due to her plate discipline and ability to sacrifice or hit behind runners when need be.
One thing is for certain: if it’s a defensive battle don’t sleep on the Copperhead bats at the end of a game.
Eastern A softball tournament begins Thursday in Laurel The Billings Gazette
For the first time, the Eastern A is holding a divisional tournament to determine its three representatives for next weekend’s state tournament.
The double-elimination tournament begins Thursday and concludes Friday in Laurel.
Sidney and Glendive open the tournament at 10 a.m., with Miles City and Hardin following at noon. Billings Central and Laurel received byes into the semifinals.
The championship and third-place games are set for 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday.
Maroons head to Anaconda for first divisional
Anaconda’s Charlotte Yoeman-Martin Complex will be the site for the first-ever Southwestern A Divisional softball tournament, which runs Friday and Saturday.
The top three teams will advance to the Class A State tournament next week in Polson. Butte Central heads to the Smelter City looking to be one of those teams.
The Maroons, thanks to their 9-1 conference record, earned a first-round bye. BC (14-6 overall) shared the regular-season title with Hamilton. The Broncs, though, took the No. 1 seed by virtue of the tiebreaker.
Unless there’s a major upset, the Maroons will play host Anaconda (10-10, 6-4) at 4 p.m. The Copperheads battle Corvallis (4-14, 1-9) at 1 p.m.
Stevensville (6-12, 1-9) plays Dillon (6-12, 2-8) in the other 1 p.m. game. The winner of that game plays Hamilton (16-4, 9-1) at 4. (Tournament bracket)
The Maroons enter the tournament peaking at the right time. BC won nine out of its last 10 games. That includes a 3-1 record without injured ace Teresa Piazzola at last week’s Laverne Combo Invitational.
Piazzola, a sophomore who has been at times dominant on her way to a 9-3 record, is expected to pitch this weekend.
If she can’t go the distance, the Maroons have a more-than-capable backup in senior Mikayla Boggs, who proved her mettle by winning three games — including a victory against her former team in Anaconda — last week.
Sophomore McKenzie Gallagher also impressed in a victory at the Combo.
Defensively, coach Kelci Thatcher feels her team is on top of its game with freshman Taylor Wahl, Gallagher and sophomore Shawnee Hjelt up the middle and senior Rylee Green and freshman Mollie Peoples on the corners.
Sophomore catcher Kate Ossello has excelled working with Piazzola, and the Maroons have a solid outfield with senior Shelby Paffhausen in center along with Boggs and seniors Courtney Thomas and Cassidy McGree playing the corner spots.
Offensively, the Maroons enter the postseason with lots of firepower.
Piazzola hit s a team-leading .512, while Wahl, who carries a .372 batting average, has blasted eight home runs. Hjelt, who is hitting .453, drove in a team-high 16 runs.
Peoples (.396) and Paffhausen (.328) also carry impressive batting averages, while freshman Corbyn Holm, the backup catcher, has had some big hits down the stretch. Freshman Emily St. John gives the Maroons a speed option for pinch running.
BC swept every team in the Southwestern A during the season except Hamilton. The Maroons and Broncs split with each team winning at home.
The Maroons are seeking their first state title since Maroons went undefeated in 1999 and 2000.
Hamilton, Butte Central and Anaconda represented the Southwestern A at state last year. Hamilton placed fourth.