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051210 sentinel vs. hellgate cropped
Big Sky’s Rachel White watches her three-run double sail into the outfield during the fourth inning Tuesday at Rattlesnake fields. Big Sky won its 11th game in a row, outlasting Hellgate 7-3. Photo by MICHAEL GALLACHER/Missoulian

Stringing together 11 straight softball wins takes a certain amount of composure.

There's bound to be days when things aren't clicking. Maybe the defense is out of sync, the bats are quiet or the pitcher isn't getting calls.

That's when calm comes in handy.

Missoula Big Sky loaded the bases in each of the first three innings Tuesday and had just one run to show for it. A different team might've started throwing things in the dugout, but the Eagles kept on pressuring city rival Hellgate, made a breakthrough in the fourth and posted a 7-3 win at Rattlesnake fields.

Senior Rachel White was the hero for a Big Sky team that hasn't lost in a month. Her bases-loaded double in the fourth killed most of the tension for the city champs. She finished 3 for 3 with two doubles and three RBIs.

"This team as a whole has come together better than any of the last three years," she said. "We're a team this year. We have a lot of people who support each other, so when an error happens, you go over and say, ‘Just forget about it. It's over.' "

Hellgate pitcher Leyna Downey walked nine hitters in the first three frames. To her credit, she also had a lot of strikeouts, and would've emerged unscathed if not for a bases-loaded walk in the second.

"So nervous - you get more nervous than any other game," White said of her team's rivalry with the Knights. "There's nothing you can do about it. Hellgate, because they're scrappy and they can come back, you just never know."

In other words, throw out the records when the teams meet. Records that are in stark contrast, with Big Sky at 11-1 in the Western AA and 12-5 overall and Hellgate at 2-10, 4-13.

Yet the Knights must have liked their position heading into the fourth inning Tuesday, tied at 1-1. They answered Big Sky's first run with one in the third, capitalizing on two errors.

"You could kind of tell it started to work on them a little bit," coach Dennis Staves said of his Big Sky team. "You can see they're pressing a little bit.

"But one kid gets a hit and it starts it off for us. They don't quit."

Big Sky's big fourth inning started when Baylie Frost was hit by a pitch. Kelsey Lucostic and Kelsey LaVaute followed with one-out walks, then Frost scored when Jesse Schafer was hit by a pitch. That set the stage for White's base-clearing double on a hard ground ball up the middle.

Hellgate never recovered. Two insurance runs scored for Big Sky on errors in the top of the sixth. The Knights answered with a pair in the bottom of the inning on RBI singles by Brooke Nelson and Sarah Hendricks. But it was too little, too late.

"I don't think I've ever seen a team that can ... we'll let runners on, we'll give them a few, we'll have a walk or an error, then we buckle down and pull through," Staves said. "That's something we've done for the whole season.

"Our pitcher almost has to have someone on before she gets fired up. But we make plays. It's an interesting team. We (name an) MVP at the end of the season. I don't know who it would be."

Sophomore Andie Walt picked up the pitching win, allowing five hits while walking four and striking out three. Downey finished with 18 walks while striking out

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