Softball: Cowgirls lose state tourney opener

By: 
Abe Winter
Star Staff Writer
SIDNEY — Day 1 of the State Class A Softball Tournament wasn’t anything the Custer County District High School Cowgirls anticipated.
They waited and waited and waited. And when it was all done, it wasn’t.
Instead, after their first game Thursday at South Meadow Complex started about 100 minutes late, it ended up being suspended by darkness with Columbia Falls leading 5-2 after four innings.
The matchup of Divisional champions resumed at 8 this morning and the Cowgirls were no match for the pitching of KJ Schweikert, who earned the victory by striking out 10 while getting plenty of support in winning 11-4 in a game that required 15 hours to complete.
 When play got under way today — an hour before the tournament was set to  resume and wraps up Saturday barring the unforeseen — the Wildkats scored four runs in the fifth and added two more in the sixth to boost the lead to nine.
The Cowgirls did score twice in the bottom of the seventh on a walk to Kylee Licht and back to back doubles by Hope Dittus and Mckenzie Taylor after Schweikert had been lifted.
Ironically, it was Columbia Falls that created most of the lateness. In winning 10-9 over Havre in eight innings in its first game, the schedule went awry. That, plus a needed movement of the game with CCDHS after too much water was sprayed onto the diamond, created a 6:40 p.m. start rather than the scheduled 5 p.m. start.
That being said, one would never have known Columbia Falls had surrendered so many runs in defeating Havre. Not the way Schweikert was pitching.
Although surrendering a run without allowing a hit in the first to fall behind 1-0, Schweikert was dominant. She struck out the side in the first, second and fourth innings. She notched nine of the 12 outs via strikeout before the game was halted.
The only hit she allowed Thursday was a long solo home run by Tori Ogolin in the third. She was touched for a triple on Friday by Alexa Kappel.
By then the Wildkats had built a 4-1 lead helped by seven walks, four by Ogolin, the starter, and three by Alexa Kappel in relief.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Kappel said as darkness set in on a chilly, wind-blown day, adding that she hoped things would improve when play resumed Friday. “It’ll be a new day and it would be nice to come back. We’ve done it before.”
 It wasn’t to be. Instead, the deficit grew and the CDDHS record fell to 12-7-1 going into the first game of the loser’s bracket. The Cowgirls would need to win five games, starting with Dawson County High School, in order to win the state championship.
 They were hoping for another stellar performance that would match or surpass last week’s Divisional final when the Cowgirls blitzed DCHS 10-0 behind the two-hit pitching of Kappel.
 “We’re chasing  few pitches and just not seeing the ball,” CCDHS coach Murrey Selk said. “We need to come back and play like we did in the Divisional.”
Columbia Falls went ahead 2-1 in the second inning. The two runners circling the bases both reached on walks to start the inning against Ogolin, who gave way to Kappel with one out.
A walk to start the third began another two-run rally and the Wildkats quickly replied with their fifth run to offset the homer by Ogolin off the hard-throwing Schweikert.
“She’s a really good pitcher and we haven’t seen anyone throw that fast all season,” Kappel said.
 
Notes: The Cowgirls were the only one of the four teams earning a first-round bye to fall. They were unable to follow the lead of fellow Divisional champions Frenchtown, Hamilton and Manhattan Christian of Belgrade. ... Butte Central pitcher Kloie Thatcher, playing with a heavy heart after her sister died after being hit by a train last weekend in Miles City, threw a perfect game in a 10-0, five-inning victory over host Sidney. ... Butte Central lost its second game.
(Contact Abe Winter at starcity@midrivers.com or 406-234-0450.)

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