HAMILTON - The Hamilton Broncs are back in control of the Central A softball race.
Led by a stellar pitching performance from junior Melodee Mildenberger, the Broncs notched a 3-0 win over Butte Central in front of a large crowd Thursday afternoon.
Mildenberger allowed just three singles, struck out 12 and didn't issue a walk as Hamilton moved to 7-1 in league and 15-3 overall. Mildenberger, who improved to 14-3, has 166 strikeouts this season and an ERA of 0.72.
Butte Central dropped to 5-1, 9-6. The Maroons topped Hamilton earlier this year 1-0. If the two teams finish the regular season tied, the Broncs will win the tiebreaker because they allowed one run against the Maroons, while Butte Central surrendered three. Hamilton won last year's Central A title.
"It seems like every time we play them it's a battle,'' said Hamilton assistant coach Marty Krueger. "We had a ton of students and people show up. It's always a big game for us. Basically we had to beat them by one run to have the tiebreaker. But I don't want to get too far ahead.''
Hamilton still has league games against Corvallis and Ronan.
Hamilton catcher Vanessa Wood, who leads the team with a .537 batting average, got the Broncs rolling in the bottom of the second with a leadoff double. Ashley Eckhardt, who went 2-for-3, laid down a bunt single and stole second. Katie Boucher followed with a two-run single to right field.
The Broncs added one more in the third. Butte Central pitcher Jodi Hogart, who struck out six, walked Jo Jo Johnson to leadoff the inning. Hogart's lone walk proved costly. Mildenberger put down a sacrifice bunt, moving Johnson to second. Two batters later, Eckhardt singled home Johnson.
A failure to execute bunts and get timely hits cost Hamilton in its first meeting against Butte Central on April 22. It that game, the Broncs had five hits, three more than Butte Central.
"The first game we didn't execute and we didn't get any bunts down,'' Krueger said. "Today, we did that really well.''
Jordan Kambich was the only Butte Central player to reach second base. Kambich, Cassanda Franklin and Brenna Manion had the Maroons' hits.
Hamilton takes a break from Central A action Saturday, playing host to Western A Columbia Falls and Whitefish.
Hamilton 3, Butte Central 0
Butte Central 000 000 0 - 0 3 0
Hamilton 021 000 x - 3 4 1
Jodi Hogart and Jordan Kambich. Melodee Mildenberger and Vanessa Wood. W - Mildenberger (14-3). L - Hogart (9-6)
BUTTE CENTRAL - Meghan Walsh 0-3, Karly Kambich 0-3, Brenna Manion 1-3, Erin Butori 0-3, Jordan Kambich 1-3, Cassanda Franklin 1-3, Brittney Hoehne 0-3, Maggie Braun 0-2, Hogart 0-2.
HAMILTON - Jenna McCartney 0-3, Jo Jo Johnson 0-2, Mildenberger 0-2, Vanessa Wood 1-3, Ashley Eckhardt 2-3, Katie Boucher 1-3, Karly Baer 0-1, Cheyanne Marcy 0-1, Korrie Gover 0-1.
2B - Wood. RBIs - Eckhardt, Boucher 2.
Kalispell sweeps Big Sky
At Kalispell, the Kalispell Bravettes ran their winning streak to five games and clinched the Western AA regular-season title with a sweep of Missoula Big Sky at the Conrad Complex.
Kalispell won the first game - a conference affair - 5-2 and then rallied from five runs down in the seventh inning to beat the Eagles 6-5 in the non-conference second game.
The Bravettes moved to 10-1 in league with just one conference game remaining against Sentinel. The Spartans, who tied Kalispell for the league title last season, are in second place with a 7-3 conference record.
In the opener, Kalispell junior ace Chelsey Lorenz struck out and allowed just three hits to move to 10-1. Big Sky became the first Garden City club to get a run of her this season when senior Shelley Boyd hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning to cut Kalispell's lead to 3-2. Caitlin Luehr went 2-for-3 with two RBIs for the Bravettes.
In the second game, JoDee Krause went 2-for-4 with two RBIs for the Eagles, who appeared headed to their ninth win of the season.
Kalispell mounted a furious comeback in the final frame, stringing together four singles and a double. Jackie Byrnes tied the game 5-5 with a two-run double. Byrnes scored the winning run when Tasia Dungan laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt to score Byrnes.
Big Sky dropped to 4-6, 8-9. The Eagles travel to Great Falls on Saturday to play Bozeman, Great Falls Russell and Great Falls High.
Kalispell 5, Big Sky 2
Big Sky 000 002 0 - 2 3 1
Kalispell 000 032 x - 5 5 1
Michael Eustance, Fred (5) and Steph Phillips. Chelsey Lorenz and Natalie Luehr. W - Lorenz (10-1). L - Eustance.
Big Sky - JoDee Krause 0-3, Steph Phillips 0-3, Lynnea Foshag 0-3, Ashley Powell 0-3, Michael Eustance 1-3, Angie Pickins 0-2, Sara Fred 0-1; Amber Maki 0-2, Shelley Boyd 1-2.
Kalispell -Tiffany Nelson 0-3, Kristen Vaughan 1-3, Jackie Byrnes 0-2, Chelsey Lorenz 0-3, Natalie Luehr 1-2, Caitlin Luehr 2-3, Tasia Dugan 0-2, Crystal Svennungsen 1-2, Liz Dwyer 0-2.
HR - Boyd. RBIs - Boyd 2. C. Luehr 2, Svennungsen.
Kalispell 6, Big Sky 5
Big Sky 200 300 0 - 5 8 1
Kalispell 000 000 6 - 6 10 4
Michael Eustance, Sara Fred (7) and Steph Phillips. Kristen Vaughan and Natalie Luehr. W - Vaughan (5-2). L - Fred.
Big Sky - Krause 2-4, Steph Phillips 1-4, Lynnea Foshag 1-3, Powell 0-3, Eustance 1-3, Boyd 1-3, Maki 1-2, Kari Murphy 0-2, Steph Toshoff 0-1, Pickins 1-3.
Kalispell - Amanda Finch 2-4,Svennungsen 0-0, Nelson 1-3,Byrnes 1-4,Lorenz 2-3, N. Luehr 1-4, C. Luehr 0-1, Dugan 1-2, Brianne Bennett 0-3, Britt Tkachyk 1-3, Liz Dwyer 2-3.
2B - Krause. Byrnes. RBIs - Krause 2, Phillips, Eustance. Finch, Nelson, Byrnes 2, N. Leuhr, Dugan.
n Polson 19, C. Falls 2
At Columbia Falls, two-time defending state Class A champion Polson ran its winning streak to 23 games with a 19-2 Western A victory over Columbia Falls. The game ended after five innings because of the 10-run margin rule.
Strohm Fouty, Kdee Meidinger, Charmel Burke and Bonnie Klein each had three hits and drove in three runs for the Pirates, who moved to 7-0 in league and 18-0 overall.
Polson scored 10 runs in the fifth inning. Burke fanned six and allowed six hits to improve her record to 3-0.
Heather Cardani had two hits and an RBI for the Wildkats (1-5, 4-9).
Polson 19, Columbia Falls 2
Polson 411 3(10) - 19 17 2
C-Falls 100 10 - 2 6 3
Charmel Burke and Jenny Nesladek. Kim Pettit and Chelsea Jolly. W - Burke (3-0). L - Pettit (4-4)
POLSON - Strohm Fouty 3-4, Kdee Meidinger 3-5, Charmel Burke 3-4, Brigit Johnson 2-3, Kelsey Noble 0-1, Crystal Cornett 0-1, Bonnie Klein 3-3, Keely Torgison 0-0, Ashley Woldstad 2-4, Tami Bonkowski 1-3.
Columbia Falls - Shannon Andersen 0-3, Kim Pettit 1-3, Chelsey Jolly 1-3, Jenny Ramsey 1-3, Heather Cardani 2-3, Lacy Durst 0-2, Carly Heft 0-2, Ashley Dunigan 1-2, Kym Island 0-2.
3B - Bonnie Klein. RBIs - Fouty 3, Meidinger 3, Burke 3, Klein 3, Johnson, Noble, Cornett, Woldstad 2, Bonkowski. Carndani, Dunigan.