BUTTE — Taylor Huff’s powerful swing not only sent the ball over the outfield fence three times Tuesday against Skyview, it sent the Butte to Helena for the Class AA state softball tournament Thursday on bases-loaded momentum.
The Bulldogs swept their three-game Eastern AA playoff series with the Falcons to clinch a state berth, winning the first two games 10-0 and 16-10, respectively.
The first game was finished in the fifth inning by the 10-run rule.
And as much as the Bulldogs’ lineup came through with timely hits, it was Huff who stole the day. The junior hit two three-run homers, one grand slam, and totaled 12 RBIs in what was a win-or-go-home situation.
With stats like that, Tuesday’s performance has to be up there as the best hitting games of her softball life, right?
“It definitely is,” she said. “But I couldn’t do it without my coaches.”
Quick to deflect recognition as she may be, her RBI total outmatched the total runs scored by a tough Skyview squad that was nearly eliminated by back to back 10-run rule games.
Butte (16-7, 10-4) held a 16-4 advantage heading into the bottom of the fifth of Game 2, where Skyview notched four runs, including a Jessie Ellis three-run home run to remain afloat in the elimination game.
Momentum seemed to be shifting to the Falcons, who had the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth. Skyler Chartier sent a deep fly ball to left-center, where Madison Joseph and Trisha Ericson nearly collided in diving efforts for the pop up. Joseph emerged with the caught ball, hit Huff at the cutoff, who relayed it home to get the runner tagging from second. The double play ended the inning and, ultimately, the season for Skyview.
“If we would have got that run it really would have changed things,” Skyview coach Mike Falcon said. “As a coach you second guess yourself but it was a bang-bang play. We forced them to make a play and they had to make two good throws and a tag and they did that. We put pressure on them and they made two great plays.”
The second game was rife with fielding errors for Butte, which played a loose and comfortable first game — and first four innings of the second game — before the Falcons mounted their comeback.
“They’re a good hitting team, sooner or later hitters are going to get to the pitchers,” Butte coach Ryan Stosich said. “We did a couple of uncharacteristic things (fielding) but tip your hat to Skyview.”
Kaidy McClafferty, who won both games from the circle, had a home run of her own in the second game that helped build the early cushion.
Skyview finishes its season at 4-14 (2-10).
"All I asked of these girls today was to have fun and compete, and they competed their butts off today," Falcon said. "They fought, they gave us an opportunity to make it a game and put some pressure on them. I’m proud of our effort."
The Bulldogs return to the state tournament for the second straight season and will await seedings to be announced for their first matchup in Helena on Thursday.
“I don’t think it has sunk in yet,” Stosich said of returning to state. “We have eight seniors that have been through a lot … but we’ll just keep our eye on the prize.”