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Senior's Cassidy Butler is tagged out
Senior's Cassidy Butler, 2, is tagged out by the catcher in their game with CMR Thursday April 21, 2011.

For weeks, I've been saying there are six teams in the Eastern AA that could qualify for the state tournament. Based on its last two games, you can probably add Bozeman to that list. On Saturday, the Hawks got their first conference win since 2006 when they rallied to beat Billings Skyview, 6-5. The win moved Bozeman to 1-4 in Eastern AA play (2-6 overall) and dropped Skyview out of a tie for first place in the conference. Although they didn't win Thursday night, the Hawks held Billings West scoreless through six innings, only to lose 1-0. Bozeman currently sits in last place in the Eastern AA with a 1-5 conference record (2-7 overall), but has shown it can play with anyone in the conference.

More AA Softball:

- Through last weekend, Billings Senior and Great Falls CMR were tied for first in the Eastern AA with 3-1 conference records. CMR's 8-1 overall mark is the best in the AA, with the Rustlers' one loss coming at Senior, 7-6, last Thursday.

- Heading into the second month of the season, no one team has separated itself as the top team in either the Eastern AA or the Western AA. Following Senior and CMR in the East, Billings West has a 4-2 conference record, Skyview owns a 3-2 conference mark, and Butte sits at 1-2. In the Western AA, Helena Capital has the only unbeaten conference record left in the class at 5-0. The Bruins lead Missoula Sentinel (5-1) and Kalispell Glacier (5-3) at the top of the conference standings.

- Looking into the future, the Senior-West showdown on Friday (re-scheduled due to weather) starts what should be a telling run of games in the Eastern AA. West and Senior will both play CMR, Skyview, and Great Falls (as well as another matchup against each other) between now and May 10. The top seed gets a bye into the state tournament and, especially with the parity in the conference this season, is the only way to guarantee your spot in the final weekend's bracket.

A Softball

- Based on the results that have been sent to us at The Gazette, Billings Central still tops the Eastern A standings with a 5-1 conference record. Laurel is tied in the loss column with the Rams with a 2-1 conference record, while Sidney and Hardin round out the top four with two losses apiece (Note: If those records are incorrect, please email me at ckimmel@billingsgazette.com).

Over the past couple weeks, it's starting to look like pitchers are catching up with batters, as teams are starting to score fewer runs. Evidence:

  • After scoring 11 or more runs in each of its first four games, Billings Central has scored five and six runs in each of its last two games.
  • Laurel beat Butte Central, 2-1, on Tuesday. The Locomotives previous four games combined for 13 runs, 11 runs, 10 runs, and 13 runs.
  • Sidney has allowed five combined runs in its last two games, while allowing five or more in each of its first three games.

- Belgrade continued its hot run on Thursday by beating Helena, 3-0, to move to 9-2-1 on the season. The Panthers appear to be one of the top Class A teams in the state (again) and will get to test their merits at the Frenchtown Invitational this weekend. One of the top matchups at the Frenchtown Invitational will be Polson (the Pirates beat Whitefish 40-0 on Tuesday) versus Butte Central on Saturday. The games over there should give softball fans an indicator on the strength of the Central A compared to the teams in the western part of the state.

B-C Softbal

- Another week goes by on the calendar, another week goes by where I don't see a single result from the Eastern B-C. (Note: If you have results from the Eastern B-C, please email me at ckimmel@billingsgazette.com.)

- I only saw a couple games from the Western B-C, but Florence and Missoula Loyola still look like the two teams to beat from that area. Thompson Falls, who won the State B-C championship last year, continues to have an up-and-down season. The Blue Hawks fell to Loyola on Tuesday, 12-0. Based on the few results I have seen, it looks like it could be an interesting race for third in fourth in the Western B-C between St. Ignatius, Deer Lodge, Plains, and Thompson Falls.

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