After scoring just nine runs in two games on Friday, Zootown Softball manager Dennis Staves was a little worried about his team's hitting, so they did a little extra batting practice Saturday morning.
And boy, did it pay off.
First, Missoula romped to a 17-0 win over Arizona, and then followed it up with an 8-1 victory over Northern California to move to 4-0 in pool play of the Little League Senior Softball Western Regional tournament.
"We hit well today, and the whole team was hitting not just a couple, so that was great to see," Staves said.
Against Arizona, Zootown scored in every inning, scoring so early and so often it was hard to keep track. But the most impressive performance came from pitcher Kaylee Rosenbaum, who starred in the circle.
Rosenbaum struck out six of the first nine batters she saw and went the distance for Missoula.
"She was awesome, completely in the zone," Staves said. "We hit the ball great, but the performance she put in would have let us win even if the hitting wasn't so great."
Rosenbaum finished with just one hit allowed and no earned runs in shutting down Arizona.
The local All-Stars second game, against the Northern California All-Stars, looked like it was going to go much like the first. A five-run first inning had Zootown up early.
It started off with back-to-back walks by Adessa Gagner and Callie McKillop. A single by Jaime Schafer scored Gagner from second, and then Taylor Holmes raked a single to plate McKillop.
Then it was Kendall Rauk's turn.
The tall first baseman looked at one offering from Nor Cal's Kaylie Woffard before crunching a shot that soared at least 20 feet past the wall in right-center, driving in three more runs for Zootown and making it 5-0.
After the game, Rauk credited the extra batting practice in helping her swing, and the team's confidence at the plate.
"We weren't hitting well yesterday, so today was nice," she said. "We all stepped it up this morning."
She said Friday, when Zootown remained tied 1-1 with Southern California until the seventh inning, was due mostly to nerves.
But Staves thinks it's something more complex.
"We have a little bit of trouble sometimes with different styles of pitching," Staves said. "It can take a little while for us to figure a pitcher out and learn her style, then we can usually start hitting."
That happened in reverse order Saturday.
After the explosive first inning, Zootown's bats fell quiet. Missoula went three-up, three-down in the second, third and fourth innings, and only one batter-- Macey Newbary -- reached in the fifth.
Meanwhile, Nor Cal was struggling as well. They only managed one run off Newbary, off an RBI single by Cassidy Clavelle in the top of the third inning, closing the gap to 5-1.
But Zootown wasn't quite finished. Holmes and Joslyn Haran put together back to back singles in the bottom of the sixth, and were then hit home by designated hitter Sierrah Hardy.
Hardy then scored a batter later, when Quincy Preston knocked a single to right, making the advantage 8-1, which held after Newbary got three straight outs to end the game.
The win pushed Zootown to 4-0 in pool play, the only team with an unblemished record. Rauk said despite the up-and-downs at the plate, her team feels confident moving into the second half of pool play and, presumably, beyond.
"We're coming together well," she said. "Knowing in the back of our minds that we are getting better, and seeing the results when we have games like this morning, it feels good."
Missoula plays two more games Sunday before wrapping up pool play on Monday. The girls face Hawaii at 12:15 p.m., and the other team from Montana at 6 p.m.
Both games will be at Playfair Park.
The tournament victor will advance to the Senior Softball World Series in Sussex County, Delaware, in early August.