Elgas works out of jams to lead Belgrade to victory

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Erin Elgas wasn’t happy.

As Belgrade’s ace saw it, Helena High’s Riley Thennis didn’t make an attempt to avoid an inside pitch. The junior got a free trip to the bag and it loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the sixth with a tenuous 3-run lead being threatened.

“She leaned in and the ump came out and told me if they’re in the box and they lean in it’s fine,” said Elgas. “She was leaning pretty hard, so that was frustrating.”

Elgas buckled down, however, striking out Casey Holland in three pitches for the second out. Then the senior struck out Rheyse Struble in four pitches to get out of the jam.

“I don’t really get mad much, but when people get on and they shouldn’t be on that makes me annoyed,” Elgas said. “I just wanted to get out of it and come back.”

Belgrade hung on from there to beat Helena High 4-1 at the Belgrade Softball Complex. The victory extended the Panthers’ win streak to 22 games dating back to last year.

Elgas led the way, scattering five hits in the contest and working out of another jam in the seventh — the Bengals managed to get runners on second and third with two outs — with her 11th and final strike out.

Two of the Bengals’ hits came in the seventh, but it did little to rattle the four-year veteran in the circle.

“My dad’s always joked that I’ll just walk all the bases and strike people out,” said Elgas. “That’s been a scenario I’ve put myself in the last how many years I’ve been pitching. I’ve been good at handling the stress and getting out of it.”

Belgrade (3-0) took a 1-0 lead after Madi Kreiger smacked a two-out single to right field in the second inning. The senior scored on the next at-bat when Hazel Eaton doubled to the left-center field gap.

The Bengals tied the game in the third on an RBI-double by Reegan Walsh, and then got runners on second and third in the fifth following back-to-back Belgrade errors. Elgas struck out Kali Anderson and then induced a pop up to get out of the jam.

Kreiger led off the bottom half of the fifth with a single and then Belgrade capitalized on an error at first base following a sacrifice bunt attempt by Eaton to plate a run for a 2-1 lead. Eaton later scored on a wild pitch, as did younger sister Arin a short time later, to stretch the lead to three.

Hazel Eaton finished 2 for 2 at the plate with a walk and an RBI, while Kreiger was 2 for 3.

“I’m really proud of Madi’s bat. She’s done a really good job,” Belgrade coach Andrea Folkman said. “She’s just worked on making good contact, adjusting to different things she needed to, and she really produced when we needed her to.”

While the Panthers managed to scratch across a couple of runs when needed, it was a subpar performance for the two-time defending Class A champions. They were limited to six hits in the contest and committed an error — four of them, in fact — for the first time this season.

“This was a different pace of game than we’re used to. There was a lot of short game going on,” said Folkman. “I think they need to come a little more mentally prepared.”

Belgrade returns to action with a non-conference game at Butte Central Tuesday. It will cap a busy stretch of eight games in eight days, which included four jamboree games (as well as a regulation game) over the weekend at the Panthers’ annual First Pitch Tournament.

“They’re probably the most conditioned team in the state. We do a lot of conditioning here, which they will tell you all about if you ask,” said Folkman. “I think that’s helped them stay on top of it as far as how many games we’re playing. But we still have to work on that mental side of the game.”

Belgrade 4, Helena 1

Helena 001 000 0 – 1 5 3

Belgrade 010 030 x – 4 6 4

Tyleigh Burchard, Mariah English (5) and Kali Anderson. Erin Elgas and Ellie Milesnick. W – Elgas (3-0). L – Burchard.

HELENA – Anderson 2-4, Nicole Price 0-4, Vanessa Walsh 1-2, Veronica Hansen 0-2, English 0-2, Amber Countryman 0-2, Riley Thennis 0-2, Casey Holland 1-3, Rheyse Struble 0-2, Reegan Walsh 1-3 (2B).

BELGRADE (3-0) – Kamie Gorrell 0-2, Kenna Thomas 1-3, Lanie Morgan 0-3, Olivia Cook 0-3, Maddisen Tomasetti 0-2, Sheridan Smith 0-0, Madi Kreiger 2-3, Hazel Eaton 2-2 (2B), Milesnick 1-3, Haylee Curry 0-2.

Originally published by the Belgrade News.

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