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Battlin Bout between the Broncs Bombers and the Plunderous Pirates

May 3, 2012
Northwest Montana A Conference


Sensational Softball Sizzler on the Menu:

Battlin Bout between the Broncs Bombers and the Plunderous Pirates

by John Heglie


NOTE TO READERS:  For those who might be interested in viewing additional presentation material on the Polson Lady Pirates, the reader is referred to the season preview dated  the 29th of  March entitled “Softball Preview: Lady Pirates.”  It may be accessed by clicking on the RED reader bar at the top of the page of this website where it says “view more headlines.”  It may be found on page 5 of the backlog material.


If area fans relish some bat-on-ball bludgeoning intermixed with some cat-and-mouse who-is-the-predator who-is-the-prey pitcher-versus-batter duels modeled after our national pasttime, then they might take into consideration attending some state-tournament quality softball action when the visiting Frenchtown Lady Broncs tangle with the two-time defending state champion host Lady Pirates in Polson this Thursday the 3rd of May at 6 o‘clock for the varsity contest.  The encounter is tantamount to a rematch of the 2011 Class A state championship with a few adaptations at various positions due to graduation of some standout players on both teams.  The game is also a long-awaited sequel of an earlier clash between this pair of prep softball titans held earlier in the year in Frenchtown, where the host Broncs eeked out a narrow 9-8 victory with Polson threatening with the tying run on second base with nobody out the final inning


The Lady Broncs Bombers present a formidable lineup which almost becomes self explanatory for their present pristine 12-0 record.

Leading off in the batting order is twice all-conference honorable-mention (ut 11, 3b 10) and all-tournament (10) senior infielder Katie Kees.  Kees is a key reason behind much of the scoring success generated by the team, for once she gets on board, her mates relish their opportunities for moving her around the infield from base to base until she can make the trip home as if she stepped out of the house on a brief errand and returns to the dugout with a grocery sack containing a score.  Kees is currently batting a few hits shy of a .500 average, has tallied double figures in RBIs and has a half dozen extra-base hits to her credit.


Batting second is all-conference 1st-team senior 2nd base infielder Kaitlyn Indreland.  This Indreland is a solid contact hitter who maintains a healthy average well into the .300 range.  While she remains a threat at the plate to generate an extra-base hit in any given appearance in the batters box, the greater danger pertains to her penchant for generating RBIs with runners on base, where she has already accrued a dozen to her credit and is on the verge of surpassing her output from last season at only the halfway juncture this time around.


Hitting in the third slot is all-state, two-time all-conference 1st-team senior third base infielder Keller Leishman.  When Leishman is unleashed, she can spell double trouble for opposing teams, not only because she is a multi-dimensional player who can pitch (14-2 career thus far) as well as play most any position around the field, but most especially because of her penchant for smacking extra-base hits when it is her turn to swing the bat at the plate.  Before the season started, Leishman was ranked third for generating doubles on the Frenchtown career list of softball players throughout the years.  On the verge of going double digits in doubles once again this season, she has vaulted over her predecessors to take over the number one position for career doubles by players in a Frenchtown uniform with just over three dozen to her credit thus far and this season is only at the half way juncture.  Leishman is also ranked fourth on the Frenchtown career home run list, but with the pair to her credit thus far this season, a couple of more could vault her to take over the number two position on that all-time list if opposing pitchers  aren’t careful and throw her a couple of tosses in her sweet zone.  Excluding this season, she also has a .744 career slugging percentage, fourth best on the Frenchtown all-time list according to head coach Eli Field.  Such hitting prowess doesn’t just materialize overnight, but stems from accumulated skills integrated with a lot of reps from putting in beaucoup time in a batting cage like the one she has had access to in her father’s shop since she was a wee young lass just able to swing a bat. Leishman has already exceeded double digits in extra-base hits this season with almost half of those attributed to doubles and is well into the teens in generating RBIs for her team.


Batting in the cleanup position is basketball all-conference 2nd-team and softball two-time all-state, twice decorated all-tournament, two-time all-conference 1st-team junior pitcher  Abby Indreland.  Much like some kind of softball rendition of the African-American spiritual song “Go Tell It On the Mountain”  often sung as a carol around Christmastime, Indreland tends to orchestrate a game from the mound with her pitching repertoire.  She can burn a batter with her heater, baffle with a changeup, perplex with a riser or sinker.  She has fine-tune adjustment capability at her disposal much like  a good golfer can adjust their putting stroke, a transferable skill that became an additional asset in basketball when she would bomb three-pointers long-distance from beyond the arc upon Frenchtown opponents. In the circle she has yet to exceed single figure losses, having thus far accrued an impressive 40-5 record to date.  But pitching is not her only strength.  She can also bludgeon the ball, which was quite evident the last time Polson and Frenchtown met when she blasted a pair of home runs and collected 4 RBIs.  She is currently batting just a few hits shy of a .600 average and has already tallied double figures in RBIs this young season.


Covering behind the plate is all-tournament, twice all-conference 1st-team (2b 11, ut 10) versatile senior Madison McGuire.  Aside from her defensive arm that limits the range of base runners who might feel inclined to stray from their designated square of real estate, McGuire is just a hit shy of batting a .500 average and has likewise reeled in double digit RBIs. 


Hitting in the sixth position is basketball Minot State bound all-state, three-time all-conference (1st-team 11-12/10-11, hm 09-10) and softball all-conference 2nd-team (10) senior first base infielder Sarah Lester.  With her six-foot frame and glove at full extension, Lester can almost seem to stretch half way to the pitching circle.   When a defense can employ that kind of shortening of a crucial factor like distance, it tends to account for a lot of outs in a game of inches.  Lester can also erupt at the plate with a big game much like she can go off on the basketball court for double figures in a heartbeat.  In a recent game against AA Missoula Sentinel, Lester batted 3-4 and accounted for all of the team RBIs in their 5-4 victory.  After a slow start, Lester has been heating up at the plate as the season has progressed, batting over .500 the second quarter of the season against opponents.


Batting seventh is AA Missoula Big Sky transfer senior shortstop Kayla Weishaar, who is not really much of a newcomer to the team since she has played summer ASA softball with many of the Lady Bronc regulars the previous summer.  Weishaar almost hit for the cycle in an earlier game of the season against Sandpoint, lacking only a mere single to complete a rarity in batting accomplishments for an individual game in which she generated a half dozen RBIs.   She is on the verge of accruing multiple extra-base hits as the season progresses and has already contributed a dozen RBIs to the coffers of her team.  Needless to say, her addition to the roster adds a decided bump to a team that was already loaded to begin with.


Hitting in the eighth position for the Lady Broncs is a platoon combination which tends to vary depending upon various factors relating to the  type of opponent the team is going to face.  More than half of the time sophomore infielder Keegan Wickman has appeared at the plate.  Wickman wields a wicked swing, batting in the vicinity of a .500 average and has notched a pair of home runs thus far as well to supplement her other extra-base hits.   More often than not on the other occasions,  basketball all-conference 2nd-team and softball all-conference 2nd-team junior centerfielder Holly Jacobs will assume the role at the plate, where she is batting a healthy average in the .400 range.


Batting at the bottom of the order is basketball all-state, all-conference 1st-team senior outfielder Emma Oostdyk, who hit over .400 last season while playing in just over half of the games and is just a couple of hits shy of maintaining that average playing in a more regular role.  Oostdyk has already tallied double figures in RBIs, an accomplishment that is not typically reflected among lineups of most teams by players hitting at the bottom of the batting order.


Among the Frenchtown roster are a talented bunch of reserves who could easily win starting positions with another team and can only be considered “reserves” in the strictest sense of the word that has next to nothing to do with a dip in capability or lack of seasoning.   These include volleyball all-conference 2nd-team sophomore  outfielder Josie Anderson, basketball all-conference 1st-team sophomore infielder/outfielder Kayla Blood and  basketball all-conference 1st-team sophomore infielder Vanessa Stavish.  Rounding out the reserves are junior catcher/infielder Larissa Berg, junior infielder/outfielder Nicole Garren, junior infielder Amanda Warren and versatile frosh phenom Morgan Ray. Given the caliber of talent that exudes from this squad, the fact that Ray not only logs playing time, but also has tallied a 2-0 mark as the winning pitcher of record in some of their games as a mere freshman speaks volumes about her capabilities as a contributor.


When teams play Frenchtown, there are essentially no players where an opposing pitcher can “relax” so-to-speak, because their entire lineup is laced with talented contributors who can hurt you at the plate on any given day.  Many of the players have logged numerous summers of ASA softball and have accumulated the equivalent of seasons of experience in the process.  Whereas with some teams the so-called bottom of the order is where the weaker hitters reside, with the Frenchtown Lady Broncs even the bottom of the order has demonstrated long ball capability with the alleged basement three semi-regulars going off for home runs as recently as the just completed Frenchtown Invitational.   What is essential for any team to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Broncs Bombers the duration of a game is to play exceptional defense while matching their offensive output.  The place where the Broncs seem to hold an edge over their opponents is in the mental aspect of the game.  According to the article authored by Bill Speltz of the Missoulian, the team is exceptionally focused for such a senior-laden squad. While taking home hardware the last pair of state A tournaments might satisfy some teams, these Broncs are tired of playing second or third fiddle and are hungry to the point of ravenous for the top prize.  If they can sustain that focus, it is anticipated that they could very well position themselves to be in the running for the very thing they seek.  For their seniors, they know this is their last crack at doing so before they graduate.  The only chink in their armor that this writer can foresee that could develop would be if some should become infected with some form of debilitating senioritis that tends to plague many an upperclassmen before they graduate.   But the way they have been playing thus far, these Frenchtown seniors may have inocculated themselves by getting their booster shots at the local pharmacy before the season started.


As the two-time defending state champion Polson Lady Pirates (7-4, 2-2) enter this skirmish against the state runnerup Frenchtown Lady Broncs, they find themselves in the untypical position of  climbing their way out of the midst of the division standings rather than defending the perch they have frequently occupied at the top in recent years.  At present, all teams in the Northwestern A Division are chasing the NWA leading Lady Broncs Bombers in their quests to reserve those coveted slots that secure one’s attendance at the upcoming Class A state tournament to be held in Anaconda at the end of the month.  If the recent less-than-hospitable welcome extended to the visiting AA Kalispell Glacier Wolfpack is any indicator, where the host Polson team defanged their visitors 15-0 in their most recent contest, the bout brewing with the Lady Broncs Bombers should be a bonifide battle.


Leading off in the order for the Polson Lady Pirates will be volleyball two-time all-conference honorable-mention and softball twice all-conference 1st-team (ss 11, of 10) senior shortstop Ashley “Bust a Move” Johnson.  This Lady Pirate leadoff batter is the embodiment of Polson’s version of the memorable quote “I feel the need … the need for speed” attributed to the characters Maverick & Goose from the 1986 movie Top Gun.   When Johnson puts the ball into play, her speed allows her to beat out the defensive coverage about half of the time she comes to the plate, which in large measure accounts for her average hovering around .500 over the past couple of seasons.  Once on base, her presence provides the Lady Pirates with a potent weapon to wield against an opponent that pressures defenses to hold her at one place.


Batting second is volleyball all-state, two-time all-conference (1st-team 11, 2nd-team 10); basketball twice all-state, all-tournament 2nd-team (12), thrice all-conference (1st-team 11-12/10-11, 2nd-team 09-10); and softball two-time all-conference 1st-team (09/10) senior second base infielder Riley “The Cannon” Kenney.  A very selective hitter at the plate, Riley Kenney is only a half dozen shy of attaining her 100th prep career hit.  This season she has a handful of extra base hits as well as a similar number of RBIs deposited in the bank account of Lady Pirate Mutual.


Hitting in the third slot is volleyball all-state, all-conference 1st-team and softball 2010 tournament MVP, twice all-tournament, all-state, twice all-conference 1st-team junior pitcher Shay “The Tiger” Duford.  A precision control pitcher from the mound, Duford can also wield a formidable bat at the plate.  Thus far this season she has a half dozen extra-base hits to her credit and has generated a dozen RBIs thus far with her stroke at the plate.


Batting cleanup is junior third base infielder Tina “The Terminator” Marquardt, whose batting average has been steadily climbing northward as her skill precision continues to ascend.  Thus far Marquardt has accrued a handful of extra-base hits and generated RBIs well into the teens.  Currently she exhibits the best batting proficiency among the team with a figure just north of a .500 average.


Hitting in the middle of the order is volleyball all-conference honorable-mention, basketball PHS Tiffany “Tigger“ Duford Spirit Award recipient (2010-11), all-conference 2nd-team and softball all-conference 1st-tean junior  centerfielder  Heidi “Rumblin” Rausch.  A skilled outfielder, Rausch is another of the dangerous Lady Pirate hitters at the plate.  So far this season she has chalked up almost three quarters of a dozen extra-base hits to go along with her very healthy average north of the mid- .300s.


Batting in the sixth position is golf all-state, two-time all-conference sophomore catcher Jaylin Kenney (.488 Avg, 30 R, 41 H, 1 2B, 11 RBIs, 4 SB in 16U ASA 11), whose healthy mid-.300 average has been steadily approaching here summer ASA numbers from the previous season.  When defending behind the plate, Jaylin Kenney is very in touch with what is transpiring in the game.  Her batting during her plate appearances has been picking up in recent games with a couple of extra-base hits and an equal number of RBIs being generated. 


Hitting in the number seven slot is all-conference 1st-team utility sophomore leftfielder Jessica “JiB” Bagnell, who is currently batting over a .400 average and is on the verge of breaching the double figure threshold for RBIs thus far this season.  So far she has a trio of triples to showcase among her extra-base hits.


Batting eight in recent games has been golf all-state, all-conference and softball twice all-tournament, two-time all-conference 2nd-team senior first base infielder Makaliah “Smackin Mak” Wilson.  The smack from the bat of this Mak can pack a punch as exemplified by the triple and homer she has hit in recent games.  A batter who has consistently ranged somewhere within the .300 average spectrum much of her prep career, she has exhibited a penchant for being able to elevate performance during crucial encounters most evident over the course of the past pair of Class A state tournaments contests.   


Hitting at the bottom of the order has been junior rightfielder Jordyn Evertz  (.353 Avg, 13 R, 18 H, 10 RBI, 2 SB in 16U ASA 11).  A developing slap bunter, Evertz has good acceleration speed for adding an additional distraction to opposing defenses attempting to keep other pirates from plundering their real estate around the base path. 


Substituting in a key reserve role is utility senior “Clobberin” Coleen Jacobson (.545 Avg, 6 R, 6 H, 3 RBIs in 11), whose early have of the season numbers haven’t quite reflected the same kind of clutch performances she exhibited much of last season, but fans are awaiting for her to erupt as the second half of the schedule begins to unfold.  In limited appearances she has already matched her RBI output from last season and breaching the double figure threshold may loom on her horizon with an escalation in her hitting proficiency. 


The remainder of the reserves who intermittently garner playing time include junior utility infielder/outfielder Sidney Brackey, junior infielder/outfielder Selah Waldron and sophomore infielder Jaelyn Ellenwood (.300 Avg, 12 R, 15 H, 2 2B, 11 RBI in 16U ASA 11).


What fans can anticipate when these two teams clash this Thursday are the equivalent of some softball fireworks going off several months before official Independence Day celebrations launch their spectacles.  Both clubs have exceptional pitching, sound defenses and formidable hitters.  What is liable to tilt the outcome of this contest one way or another will be how clean each team can play their game without committing any costly errors coupled with timely capitalization upon strategic circumstances that infrequently surface in  favor of one team or another.  Viewers invested in one team or another might consider bringing a lot of sunflower seeds to munch on to calm those nerves that are sure to be tested.  Those inclined to park their cars within the fly zone of home run alleys might want to reconsider placing their windshields at risk when these two teams start swinging their bats of the opposing pitcher’s fastballs.  Might be safer to park just a little farther away and take in some additional exercise if the cost of running the risk of replacing a dimpled windshield is unattractive to one’s pocketbook. 


Frenchtown softball stats courtesy of head coach Eli Field

Preceeding year stats courtesy of coach Larry Smith

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