Lindsey Graham says her Great Falls CMR softball team is taking baby steps toward the goal of winning a second consecutive state title.
During Saturday’s 6-2 victory over Eastern AA foe Billings Skyview, the Rustlers showcased an all-around game, be it in the batter’s box, in the pitcher’s circle or in the field.
Leadoff hitter Madi Mahoney hit two home runs, including a three-run shot in the fourth inning to give her team enough cushion. Pitcher Quinn Hartman scattered five hits, and had a shutout going until Skyview’s Taylor Hutzenbiler hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh.
The win kept the Rustlers undefeated in the conference.
“Each game is huge for us,” said Graham, CMR’s coach. “Right now we’re not getting complacent. Who knows? There’s a lot of tough teams at the end, so we have to keep working hard and see where we finish.”
Skyview pitcher Kris Rickhoff struck Mahoney out the first time they faced, but Mahoney adjusted in her subsequent at-bats. Mahoney’s first home run, a solo shot that nearly hit the glove of Falcons center fielder Katy Webber before going over the fence, was part of a three-run second-inning.
“They were hitting the ball,” Rickhoff said. “They were finding the pitches and driving them. We did what we could, but they’re a great hitting team.”
It wasn’t until Hutzenbiler drilled a Hartman pitch over the fence in the seventh inning that the Falcons were able to get on the scoreboard. But the deficit was too much to overcome.
Skyview’s offense has been hit-and-miss through much of the season. Sometimes it’s on, sometimes it’s off.
First-year coach Sarah DeVore attributed Saturday’s outcome to a couple different factors -- not the least of which was Hartman’s effectiveness.
“Quinn probably has the best movement of any pitcher I’ve seen,” said DeVore, whose team’s record fell to 6-9 overall and 3-7 in the Eastern AA. “She does a great job keeping you off-balance. Her changeup is her signature pitch, and it definitely fooled us.
“I’d say we’re on the cold side (offensively). We know the girls can hit. They know they can hit. We’ve hit over 20 home runs, but it’s about getting them to be more consistent. I think we swing for the fences too much versus just getting on base.”