Sunday, May 28, 2023

Trotters hot streak ends at tough divisional tourney

Valley Press | May 24, 2023 12:00 AM

They began the year struggling, then caught fire toward the end, winning eight of fourteen games in the last month of the 2023 Montana high school softball season.

The Plains Trotters then polished off Loyola Sacred Heart (Missoula) in a “play-in” game that sent them to the Western B Divisional tournament in Anaconda this past weekend.

And that’s where the season came to an end for the Trotters who had a roller coaster season that came to a halt in Anaconda Friday afternoon.

Plains earned the trip to Anaconda when they beat Loyola 13-3 in a lightning-interrupted game last Tuesday in Plains.

But at the Divisional tournament they ran into a pair of powerful softball teams, losing to Florence-Carlton 13-5 in their tourney opener Thursday, then being eliminated by the Ennis Lady Mustangs the following morning, 23-11.

Against Loyola, which came to town with a razor-thin 10 players dressed for the game, the Trotters were first on the scoreboard as they scored twice in the bottom of the second inning when Izzy Crabb laced a single past the Breakers third baseman, scoring sophomore Maddy Blood who opened the bottom of the second with a walk. Crabb stole second and third, then scored by completing the stolen base trifecta with a theft of home.

The Trotters added two more runs in the bottom of the third, when Blood doubled to left, driving home Jaelyn Carr who opened the inning with an infield single. Plains senior Piper Bergstrom who had singled earlier in the inning, crossed the plate on yet another steal of home, giving Plains a 4-0 lead at the end of the third.

Plains continued adding to their lead in the bottom of inning number four, when Aubree Butcher slammed an RBI triple to right. Butcher crossed home one batter later via senior Carlie Wagoner’s base hit. Wagoner scored on a steal of home. The Trotters added three more runs on a pair of hits and some misplayed grounders, boosting their advantage to 9-0.

Lightning from dark, threatening skies caused a half-hour delay in the middle of the game as an approaching storm descended over the ballpark.

Loyola put their first runs on the scoreboard in the top of the fifth, tacking up three scores that cut the Plains lead to 9-3. But the Trotters matched that total in the bottom of the fifth, then added another run in the sixth to end the game via the Mercy rule with Plains ahead 13-3.

Wagoner and Bergstrom, playing in their last home games, each went 3-4 for the Trotters, who got a solid six innings of work on the mound from Blood, who held the Breakers to four hits while striking out 11 Loyola batters.

The win advanced Plains to the Divisional tourney where they encountered Florence-Carlton Thursday afternoon.

The Lady Falcons struck first in that game, scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the first and a solo run in the bottom of the second.

However, the Trotters answered those tallies with a four-spot in the top half of the third, putting them ahead 4-3. Florence tied the game with a single run in the bottom of the third.

Neither team scored in the fourth inning. Plains reclaimed the lead when Marrisa Young scored on a throwing error after opening the inning with a base hit. That gave the Trotters a 5-4 lead which lasted until the sixth inning.

In the bottom of the sixth, Florence erupted for seven runs to grab an 11-5 lead. They added a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh to seal the victory and send Plains to the consolation bracket.

Florence out hit the Trotters 18-11 and were aided by three untimely Plains errors.

Next up for the Trotters was a Friday morning loser out game versus Ennis, which took an early 4-0 lead after the first inning of play.

The Lady Mustangs then piled on 11 more runs in the bottom of the second. Plains scored their first runs of the game in the top of the third inning when they plated two, cutting Ennis’ lead to 15-2. But the Stangs came right back in the bottom of the third, scoring five more runs on their way to a 20-2 advantage.

Plains put together an eight-run rally in the top of the fifth after adding a solo run in the fourth, but even that offensive outburst was not enough to overcome the Lady Mustangs' big early lead as Ennis went on to a Mercy-rule shortened 23-11 win.

The loss ended the Trotters’ season with a 9-14 record.

Against Ennis, Wagoner was 3-4 at the dish, with a pair of RBIs, while Butcher had three RBIs on two hits in three at bats.

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