HELENA – Softball coaches are always quick to point out the importance of small ball. Tuesday at Northwest Park, the strategy earned the Helena High softball program a key conference win.
Addie Slanger’s bunt in the sixth inning gave the Lady Bengals a 3-2 victory over crosstown rival Helena Capital.
The Lady Bruins opened the scoring in the bottom of the first when Jaley Priddy drove in a run. After Helena High tied the game in the top of the third on an errant throw from the catcher to third base, Capital pitcher Shelby Martin blasted a home run well beyond the left field fence. The solo shot gave the Lady Bruins a 2-1 edge.
Martin hurled eight strikeouts on the afternoon and appeared poised to protect the lead until the sixth inning. Taryn Holland’s line drive past short stop brought the tying run across the plate and led to Slanger’s heroics.
With a runner on third and only one out on the board, Helena coach Ryan Schulte decided to test Slanger’s bunting. The junior played the pitch perfectly, sending the ball only a few feet down the left field chalk line. Neither Martin nor her catcher, Rena Belcourt, could make a play on the ball, driving the eventual winning run across home plate. Rheyse Struble scored the final run for Helena High.
Helena High pitcher Terra Gilchrist earned the win, forcing three Capital outs in the final frame, including a strikeout against Martin.
“She’s just another hitter, I have to keep in mind that my team’s got my back and I trust them to field the plays,” said Gilchrist, who struck out six in the contest. “It definitely feels good every time you get a strikeout, because it’s always a little nervous when you know there is a good hitter up to bat. I think it just came down to a little bit of luck.”
Helena High (7-6, 6-1) welcomes Western AA foes Kalispell Glacier and Kalispell Flathead to Mihelish Field on Saturday, with game times set for noon and 2:30 p.m.
Helena Capital (8-2, 4-1) will toss opening pitches at the same time across town at Northwest Park.