Spring hasn’t been all flowers and bloom for the Billings Senior softball team. Enmeshed in an eight-game losing streak, the Broncs needed a jolt and needed it badly.
They got one Tuesday in the form of an 11-4 victory over crosstown rival Billings Skyview, emphatically jumping back into the win column with clutch hitting, solid pitching and a couple bit-time defensive plays.
“This is kind of what we’ve been working for,” said Senior’s Sarah Bonner, who had two hits and three RBIs, and pitched the final two innings in relief. “I think this just gives us a really big confidence boost.”
The Broncs hadn’t won since sweeping Bozeman in a doubleheader on April 17. In the meantime they’d struggled to find hits when it mattered most, or to make pitches when it especially counted.
But this game was different. Senior jumped out to a three-run lead in the first, thanks to an RBI-double by Megan Olness and a two-out, two-strike double by Bonner that brought in two more runs against Skyview starter Kassi Soelter.
“I was just looking for my pitch,” Bonner said. “I was looking for a pitch to drive and a pitch I could get out of the infield. I saw that pitch and I took it.”
Two-out hitting was a big theme. Freshman slugger Brittanee Fisher crushed a grand slam with two outs in the third to put the Broncs up 10-0. That came not long after KaeLee Massey led off the third with a solo homer to nearly the same spot.
Fisher also had an RBI single with two outs in the second.
The victory “feels really good,” Senior coach Andrew Hernandez said. "The girls did a good job getting ready, they were focused today and things finally came together.
“Timely hitting had been killing us. Whether it’s with no outs or two outs, sometimes just one hit is all you need to break the game open. We did a great job of seeing the ball today, it was completely different from the last couple times we saw Kassi. We did a great job adjusting.”
Defensively, Senior shortstop Anna Paine made a highlight-reel diving stop to rob Alicia Stoner of a hit and end the top of the fourth. Massey closed the game with an equally impressive diving catch in left field to retire Morgan Webster in the seventh.
Starting pitcher McKenzie Morgan earned the victory, allowing three runs through five innings. Morgan had just one strikeout but also issued just one walk. She worked both sides of the plate effectively.
“McKenzie did a great job coming inside on us, and we struggled to adjust to that tonight,” Skyview coach Sarah DeVore said. “We were on it timing-wise, but nothing was coming off the bat hard.”
DeVore said Soelter faced 20 batters, and fell behind in the count against 10 of them. Of Fisher’s grand slam, DeVore said: “That was really deflating. That put them up 10 runs right there, and that’s a lot to come back from.”
Bonner gave up one run in the sixth (on a Morgan McGraw hit) but worked a 1-2-3 seventh to close the game.
Senior improved its record to 6-11 overall and 3-8 in the Eastern AA. The Broncs, who play at Billings West on Wednesday, are facing a road playoff series next week, but are glad to have some momentum.
“If we can keep playing the way we did today, we’re happy,” Hernandez said.
Skyview, now 12-8 overall and 5-6 in the league, also faces the prospect of going on the road for a playoff series, especially after Great Falls handed rival CMR its first conference loss Tuesday, a 5-4 decision on Bailey Ferda’s walk-off double.
Skyview is in fifth place while Great Falls (10-6, 7-5) is in fourth. CMR (11-2, 9-1) remains in first place.