Along with all the usual nicks and bumps a catcher gets during the course of a game, Billings Senior’s Kylee Hergenrider took on additional punishment Friday afternoon.
She was hit by pitches two times while batting in the first game of a Class AA playoff series against Billings West, and was plunked again in the second game.
“Totally worth it,” Hergenrider said.
Her smile said so, too. Senior advanced to next weekend’s state tournament by sweeping West 6-2 and 11-4 in the best-of-3 series at Central Park, sending the Broncs to Great Falls having won six of their last seven games.
Elle Ostermiller threw a complete-game victory in the opener, and then retired all 10 batters she faced in a second-game relief role. With the Broncs leading 5-4 and two West runs already in and the bases still loaded with Golden Bears, Senior coach Lisa Shulund brought Ostermiller on to replace starter Brittanee Fisher.
Ostermiller struck out Cody Rogers to end the threat, and continued to tie down the Bears as the Broncs added on to their run total by scoring the final six runs of the game.
“Elle does a great job of just digging deep and doing what she has to do,” Shulund said. “I know that about her, and it gives me room to play other pitchers because I know she can always come back if she needs to.”
The rest of the Broncs did what they had to do, too. They possess one of the top offenses in Class AA, and the Broncs put it on display again. Hergenrider homered in the first game, and Fisher homered twice and Payton Meyer once in the second game.
By claiming the fourth seed in the Eastern AA, the Broncs (15-8) will match up with Helena Capital, the top seed from the Western AA, in the first round of next weekend’s state tournament. Though the Bruins (18-2) beat Senior just last weekend in a nonconference game, and though Great Falls CMR (20-1) is likely to be thought of the favorite by many because of star pitcher Tristin Achenbach, the Broncs view their chances on the ascendant.
“We have a lot of confidence,” Hergenrider said. “We know there are going to be very hard games, but I think we’ll put up a really good fight. If we play like we did today, we’re going to have a very good chance of making it far at state.”
West ends its season at 7-16 and will miss out on the state tournament for the first time since the playoff system was instituted in 2005. Prior to that, every AA team qualified for state.
Preston Sanders made many of those trips to state as an assistant coach for the Bears the past 11 seasons. This was his first season as head coach.
“They’re disappointed,” Sanders said of his team. “It’s the last game of the year and your seniors aren’t moving on. You feel bad for them. I’ve known these girls for four years, and they’ve kind of become like daughters.
"This is a little more emotional, to be honest with you," Sanders continued, referencing the difference of being a head coach as opposed to be an assistant. "But, hey, Senior played great. I think they'll do great at state, I really do."