Softball: Cowgirls nip Laurel in playoff tuneup

For Custer County District High School softball players, Senior Parent Day means flowers, photos, hugs — and a chance to go out a winner at Bender Field.

The 2017 Cowgirls seized the opportunity Tuesday, with Custer County’s contingent of five seniors playing a key role in an 8-6 win over Laurel.

Seniors delivered seven of  the Cowgirls’ 10 hits, and played a role in every Custer County run with seven runs scored and five RBIs.

Fittingly, it was a pair of seniors who keyed the Cowgirls winning rally, after the Lady Locomotives battled back to tie the game 6-6 with a four-run sixth inning.

Custer County answered in the bottom of the frame when senior third baseman Jenna Swope banged a lead-off double to left, took second on senior Madi Hill’s groundout, and scored one out later on a double by senior Hope Dittus to right-center. Cowgirl junior Arena Porter singled Dittus home with an insurance run.

“(Dittus) has been struggling a little bit. That was big for her,” Cowgirls head coach Murrey Selk said.

And big for the Cowgirls, who avenged a 9-8 loss to the Locomotives on April 6, and gained some momentum before the Eastern A Conference division tournament at Glendive begins April 18.

“It’s going to be a dogfight at divisionals,” Selk said.

As for tournament seeding for the Cowgirls, who are seeded third behind Laurel (11-3, 8-2) and top-seeded Dawson County, Tuesday’s win had no impact.

But it was memorable.

“It’s always good to win on senior night. The ladies stepped up, played great defense and finished strong,” Cowgirl head coach Murrey Selk said, noting the key role his seniors have played in logging records of 9-5 overall and 7-3 in the conference.

Tuesday was no exception, with Swope playing a starring role.

The veteran third baseman went 3-for-4 at the plate with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored, including the winning run. In the field she turned a double play, snaring a sharp grounder, stepping on third and throwing to first to spoil a promising fourth inning for Laurel.

Senior Tori Ogolin stroked a two-run double in the Cowgirls’ three-run fourth, and scored twice.

Other seniors’ send-off performances included Dittus and her double; Sarah Moore, who singled and scored in the fourth; and Hill, who singled and recorded an RBI.

Ogolin, the Cowgirls left-handed starting pitcher, also put the Cowgirls in position to win. She cruised into the sixth frame with a 6-2 lead, but was pulled with two runs across and the bases loaded with one out in the sixth inning.

“Tori was hitting her spots and pitching great, but they just started timing her,” Selk said.

Junior right-handed pitcher Alexa Kappel came on to quell the Laurel comeback, surrendering an RBI walk and an RBI single before getting out of the inning. She put Laurel down quietly in the seventh, striking out a pair while allowing a scratch single.

“We couldn’t get the right hit at the right time,” Laurel head coach Gary Branstetter said. “That’s baseball.”

The teams  could meet again in the divisional tournament, hosted by Dawson County High School in Glendive May 18-20.