GREAT FALLS — Elle Ostermiller homered and pitched a strong game as Billings Senior upset Helena Capital 5-4 in a first-round game Thursday afternoon at the State AA softball tournament at the Multi-Sports Complex.
Brittanee Fisher cracked a two-run home run in the fifth inning as Senior improved to 16-8. Helena Capital, the top seed from Western AA, fell to 18-3.
“It’s a huge win,” Senior coach Lisa Shuland said. “We had a lot of people step up and do great things.
“We had some key hits at key times.”
The Broncs led 1-0 and 2-1. After Capital took a 3-2 lead on Jaley Priddy’s two-run homer in the fourth, Ostermiller led off the home half of the frame with a game-tying shot.
Ostermiller shut down the potent Capital bats thereafter.
“Elle pitched a real good game,” Shuland said. “She wasn’t satisfied; she didn’t feel like it was her best game. But she did what she had to do. She’s really good about digging deep and doing what is necessary to get the win.”
Grace Ostermiller had three hits and Payton Meyer added two for Senior. Taylor Matthews had two singles for Capital.
The Broncs have won a record nine State AA championships, and that history helps at this time of year.
“It does,” said Shuland, who as Lisa McDonald played on strong Senior teams 20 years ago. “A lot of people on the coaching staff have played in the program and it carries through. We know what this program is about and we want to continue that legacy.”
Senior advances to meet Great Falls on Friday morning at 10 as the double-elimination tournament continues. The Broncs and Bison have split two conference games this this spring.
“We know they’re a good team,” Shuland said. “It will be a tough battle.”
Said Fisher: “The key for us was to keep up the energy and stay on top of our game. And Elle did a great job pitching; she stayed strong. I’m really proud of that kid today.”
In other action, Great Falls pitcher Erin Hocker edged Sentinel’s Amber Hickethier in a duel in which both took a shutout into the fifth inning. The Bison won 2-0.
Tananya Krenik and Molly Schmitz drove in Great Falls' scores. Hocker finished with a one-hitter, by the Spartans' Taylor Holmes.
"We were in it all the way; it was one of the most exciting games we've been in all year. A couple things didn't go our way. We didn't get our bunts down," Sentinel coach Dustin Delridge said. "We played outstanding defense and Amber did a great job. Great Falls is a great team, and credit their pitcher — she took the bats out of our hands."
In the other half of the bracket, Helena got a big hit from a freshman and a stellar outing from the staff ace in a 3-1 win over Butte.
With Helena holding on to a one-run lead in the bottom of the third inning, freshman designated player Mariah English took a low, inside fastball and golfed it over the center-field fence.
Helena, the Western AA’s No. 2 seed, then added an insurance run in the fourth, and it was up to senior starter Terra Gilchrist to seal the deal in her duel against Kaidy McClafferty.
The Bengals advance to the semifinals, where they’ll take on Eastern AA champion Great Falls CMR at 10 a.m. Friday. CMR shut out Missoula Big Sky on Thursday, 6-0.
“It was a hell of a game. Both teams played well, Helena just hit and pitched a little better than we did,” Butte coach Ryan Stosich said. “They got the timely hits and we didn’t. We played well, and that’s all you can ask for. It just didn’t go our way.”
CMR ace Tristan Achenbach fired a one-hitter and struck out 20.
Madi Moore (double, RBI) and Madi Payne (two doubles, RBI) led CMR's offense with two hits apiece. Jaxie Klucewick ruined Achenbach's no-hitter.
Asked which pitches were working best, Achenbach deflected credit.
"It was a good day, and I have good teammates behind me,” she said.
— The Great Falls Tribune contributed to this story