After starting the Eastern AA schedule with a 10-run rule loss, the Billings West Golden Bears' psyche needed some massaging.
Turns out some thunder from the bats and a return to form by pitcher Jessyka MacDonald did the trick, as the defending State AA champions swept a conference doubleheader from Butte Saturday afternoon at Poly Vista.
The Bears socked four home runs -- two from catcher Kim Adelblue -- in a 14-5 first-game victory, and MacDonald took a shutout into the seventh inning of game two to complete the sweep 5-1.
The victories moved the Bears to 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the league and helped erase the memory of last week's 12-1 loss to Billings Skyview.
"I knew we had to overcome that thing with Skyview, because if we didn't, it was going to be a long year for us," conceded West coach Ed Kriskovich. "We really hit the ball well."
The Bears didn't start out so strong, however. The Lady Bulldogs spotted their ace, Jaimee Paffhausen, a 4-0 lead on just one hit in the top of the third inning with the aid of walks, hit batters, wild pitches and two West errors.
But West got the runs back in the bottom half of the third when Taylor Huebner launched a key three-run homer, and Devan Dennehy followed with a solo shot to make it a game again at 4-4. Including that outburst, the Bears outscored Butte 19-2 over the doubleheader's final 12 innings.
Adelblue, who drove in six runs with three-run homers in both the fourth and fifth innings, said Huebner's homer was the hit that got the Bears going.
"When she hit that one, we were all just like, ‘we can get back in this," Adelblue said.
While everyone else credited Huebner with the spark that got the Bears back into the game, the West shortstop refused to take the credit.
"I think it was definitely our coaches," said Huebner, a junior. "They were on us to keep our attitudes up and they know what we're capable of. They just had to remind us of that.
"You're always looking for something to ignite your team, but I was really looking to just get on base, not get another out because I knew we needed to work with what we had at the point. I wasn't really thinking home run at that point."
MacDonald, who was taken out of the game during Butte's third-inning four-run uprising in favor of Katie Zink after walking two and hitting a batter, returned to the circle in the fourth inning. After allowing an unearned run, she didn't allow another until Paffhausen's homer to lead off the bottom of the seventh in the second game.
MacDonald, who won 18 games for West last season, allowed just nine hits over her final 11 innings of work and struck out 19 batters in 13 total innings.
"We had the momentum and she came back in and took it away from us," Butte coach Steve Stosich said. "She's a terrific pitcher. She's undoubtedly one of the best."
Kriskovich said MacDonald has been throwing with a cut on her pitching hand, which has forced her to alter some of her pitches.
"Every good pitcher has a time when they have to work through something; every hitter does, too," Kriskovich said. "I thought she did well and I think the second game proved that she was able to do that."
NOTES: MacDonald homered in the second game, giving West five for the day. ... West first baseman Keela Needens had two RBI singles in the second game. ... West committed four errors in the first game. ... Center fielder Kassidy Rauch made two long running catches for the Bears, one in each game. ... West out-hit Butte 20-11 over the course of the twinbill. ... Butte dropped to 4-2 overall and 1-2 in the Eastern AA. ... Both games counted as league games because the teams won't face each other again in the regular season. As such, West was the visitor in the second game.