Through the first six innings Friday at Poly Vista, Billings Senior had been held to just three hits.
Then the seventh inning came.
Alex Bolin's one-out double started a rally that scored five runs, and the Broncs went on to post a 7-4 Eastern AA softball win over Billings West that moved Senior into a first-place tie with Great Falls CMR atop the league's standings.
"We started out slow with our bats and we all knew that we needed to hit up and down the lineup," said Senior catcher Jacey Habets, who followed Bolin's double with a tie-breaking double of her own. "Finally our bats came alive."
After Habets broke the 2-2 tie, Shae Hoskins, Jackie Thomas and Jenna Kaiser also drove in runs as the Broncs broke away with five hits in the inning. West tried to mount a comeback in the bottom of the seventh, getting a two-run double from Taylor Huebner, but a caught stealing and a strikeout ended the Bears' threat.
West starter Jessyka MacDonald seemed in control, allowing two unearned runs and striking out 11 through six innings. After Taylor Kufeld, who had an RBI single in the second inning, popped up to start the seventh, Bolin's double to left to raised the Broncs' spirits. Habets followed with her double to the right-center gap for the 3-2 lead, and though MacDonald got a second-out strikeout, the next four Senior hitters reached base.
"We've worked really hard on a couple things hitting-wise in the last week after we got shut out against Great Falls High and it's paid off," Senior coach Dave Draeger said. "They're starting to believe in some of the things that we're doing hitting-wise and it showed. It really did."
Like MacDonald, Senior starter Kirstie Thomas had few difficulties through the early stages of the game. Control problems caught up to Thomas in the fifth inning, though, but she escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam by getting MacDonald on a comebacker and getting Kim Adelblue to pop up.
West again loaded the bases in the sixth inning, but got just one run out of it.
West touched Thomas for two more runs in the seventh, but her game-ending and ninth strikeout finally put the Bears to rest.
Thomas said the cold, windy weather -- which also brought a brief pelting of soft hail in the latter stages of the game -- may have contributed to the offenses coming alive in the final inning.
"My fingers are frozen," she said. "It's harder to hold on to the ball, so you loosen your grip and you can't snap it as good. Your fingers just get cold."
Senior (4-1 Eastern AA, 8-3 overall) finished with eight hits and West (4-3, 8-3) had seven.
"Both pitchers did very well through the sixth inning," West coach Ed Kriskovich said. "Somone's got to rise to the occasion, though. (Senior) came out and hit the ball in the seventh and scored a few runs and that's the difference."
NOTES: MacDonald finished with 13 strikeouts. ... West might have been able to have a bigger rally in the seventh, but Adelblue, running between first and second, was hit by a batted ball from Devin Dennehy for the first out of the inning. Huebner followed with her two-run double. ... Senior is scheduled to travel to Butte on Saturday. ... West and Senior play again on Thursday.