The power’s out at Billings West.
It’s a strange new trend for the long-ball inclined Bears: They’ve hit 22 home runs so far this season and blasted 47 the year before, but only one ball has left the yard in their past five games. They were homerless again in a 6-1 win over rival Billings Senior on Wednesday at Poly Vista.
Naturally, West has been forced to find other ways to score runs, and that’s what happened against Senior. The Bears nudged a few bloopers and took advantage of a couple defensive miscues to gain an advantage. It might not be their comfort zone, but it works nonetheless.
“The hits came when we needed them at that moment,” West’s Lexi Mayhood said.
This was Mayhood’s first game batting leadoff for the Bears, and she set the table by going 2 for 4, driving in two runs and getting on base three times. West coach Ed Kriskovich put Mayhood in the top spot and moved Taylor Ostwald down to No. 2 in an effort to shake up an offense that scored a combined two runs in two games last weekend in Great Falls.
“I was nervous,” said Mayhood, a sophomore shortstop who hit West’s last home run 12 days ago at Butte, “but I just had to get in there and not even think about it.”
Though the power numbers weren’t there, the win allowed West to strengthen its hold on second place in the Eastern AA standings with a 7-3 record. Its overall mark improved to 12-4.
The last time the Bears played Senior they hit five home runs and won 19-0. This game was much more competitive. West scored twice in the second on a two-run single by Mayhood, got two more in the fourth on a Senior throwing error and pushed two more across in the sixth on Erin Watterud’s two-RBI base hit.
Watterud’s single was a true Texas Leaguer, falling perfectly between second baseman Kristin Kaiser and outfielders Sydney Norwood and Jeanann Lemelin. Mayhood’s hit four innings earlier was also an in-betweener.
But the Bears didn’t get much more than that off of Senior pitcher McKenzie Morgan, who was coming off a victory a night earlier against Billings Skyview. The Bears weren’t trotting around the bases after hitting homers — they were tearing around them chasing precious runs.
“We’ve got pretty good speed and we can use that to our advantage,” Kriskovich said. “And that’s pretty much what happened. We really haven’t hit the ball very hard at all the last few games. We’ll take whatever we can get.”
Bears starter Jalen Creech kept to her theme of strong performances. Creech scattered six hits and struck out 10. She retired nine in a row between the second and fourth innings. The only run Creech gave up came in the sixth on a single by Anna Paine.
The Broncs loaded the bases in both the sixth and seventh innings. They could have gotten more out of their opportunity in the sixth but it ended when Brittanee Fisher got caught in a rundown between third base and home after Paine singled.
“I was sending her early and then I tried to hold her up but she didn’t hear me,” Senior coach Andrew Hernandez said. “There was a lot of excitement, a lot of adrenaline, and I can’t blame her for that. That’s on me.”
Senior fell to 6-12 and 3-9 in the Eastern AA. The Broncs have two non-conference games remaining at home against Helena and Helena Capital this weekend.
West still has two conference games remaining at Bozeman on Thursday and against Skyview at home on Friday.