TRACK AND FIELD
TRACK AND FIELD
NWMT 'A' LINKS
2014 Preseason Softball Preview: NW 'A'
March 31, 2014Northwest Montana A Conference
2014 Preseason Softball Preview:
Northwestern A Polson Lady Pirates
including a cursory synopsis of other NWA sb teams
by John Heglie
note to readers: Readers who are interested in another perspective on the upcoming Lady Pirate 2014 season are referred to the article by Mark Robertson entitled “Spring Sports Previews: Polson,” Lake County Leader (20 March 2014) B1. The Missoulian annually features area teams in a softball preview of its own, but specs as to when that pending article is due to be released was unattainable at the time this preview was released.
For the benefit of readers who might wish to skip sections of less interest to them, section headings are provided to enable easier scrolling of the article.
RECAP SYNOPSIS OF 2013 SEASON
Last year the Polson Lady Pirates reached a pinnacle in the history of their softball program when they finished their regular schedule with an almost pristine 21-1 mark, their lone loss coming at the gloves of the Livingston Lady Rangers 14-8 on the first day of the Belgrade “First Pitch” Softball Invitational early into the season on April 5th. That loss may have served as a timely reminder that they could ill afford to overlook anyone, for it had become readily apparent that any team could beat any other team on any given day when the right set of circumstances were brought into bear upon a game. The embarrassment of that loss seemed to jolt the team into recognition that thereafter they would have to apply themselves more rigorously at playing the best softball within their capabilities if they wanted to prevail in succeeding contests. As the season progressed, it seemed as if the lessons from that game were being applied, for they would wrap up the rest of their regular schedule without any further losses, their closest being single run squeakers over NWA division rivals - an extra inning cardiac caper over the perennially competitive Frenchtown Lady Broncs and another arrhythmia amplifier over the visiting Columbia Falls WildKats.
Upon recapturing the NWA Division crown that had been snatched out of their grasp the preceedinig season by the Frenchtown Lady Broncs, the then three-time defending state champions embarked upon fulfilling a quest to pull off a rare historical feat by seeking to capture an unprecedented fourth consecutive Class A softball title. After an intitial first round bye at the State Tournament held in Belgrade, a quarterfinal ten-run blanking of the Butte Central Lady Maroons initially seemed to suggest that the Lady Pirates were positioning themselves to vault their way into another Saturday afternoon championship contest. But like the time worn idiom advises to the wise, one runs the risk of disappointment when you count your chickens before they hatch. The biggest obstacles standing in the softball path of the Lady Pirates aside from other conference crown winners would be fellow NWA Division rivals, the bludgeoning Broncs bombers out of Frenchtown and the cantankerous Kat combatants from Columbia Falls.
Top half of the bracket second-seeded NWA Frenchtown would need a bottom of the last inning walk off home run by Morgan Ray to escape unscathed past Anaconda out of their first round contest, then routinely dispatched their next opponent to arrive at the door of their quarterfinal matchup. Bottom half of the bracket third-seeded NWA Columbia Falls would sandwich a one run squeaker over top-seeded Belgrade between a pair of ten run victories on either side to advance to the undefeated semifinal. In the top half of the bracket quarterfinal, it would be the Lady Broncs who would prevail to derail Lady Pirate repeat aspirations, emerging from their third meeting of the season with a 5-0 shutout that would advance their club into the undefeated semifinal, forcing the defending champions with the least blemished record in the state to climb the rungs of the ladder through the back door to give themselves a chance at participating in the Saturday afternoon hardware festivities. Broncs would clash with Kats to punch their team’s ticket into the championship, with hooves prevailing over claws by a walk off double to break a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the 7th inning. Meanwhile, the pitfalls would be perilous for Polson to defend its title, but climbing rung after rung back into contention they would go, first past the Central A champion Belgrade Lady Panthers 5-3, then through the SWA champion Hamilton Lady Broncs 13-3, finally narrowly prevailing over the Columbia Falls WildKats 4-2 to give themselves an opportunity to defend their title with a rematch against their hooved equine division arch rivals, the Lady Broncs.
Polson would open their half of the inning of the first championship by plating a run in the top of the 1st and then nursed that precarious single score lead through six more innings and change. The contest teetered in the balance throughout up to a crucial juncture late in the contest when the Lady Pirates were a mere out away from forcing a second championship game. In the bottom of the 7th, Frenchtown’s Morgan Ray beat out a handcuffed dribbler down the baseline. After a pinch runner would advance into scoring position, Vanessa Stavish would then belt a run scoring single to tie the game at one apiece to force extra innings. In the bottom of the 8th, Lady Bronc Josie Anderson would successfully reach base. Fleet of foot Shelby Shourds would pinch run for Anderson and advance to scoring position on a sacrifice hit. Kayla Blood would then supply the Frenchtown heroics by stroking the game winning hit into the outfield to plate Shourds from second base, delivering the championship over the Frenchtown and ending the string of repetitive reign by the Polson Lady Pirates.
If a three-time defending champion were going to be dethroned, it almost seems fitting that it would require a trio of walk offs in order to do so - three back-to-the-wall, bottom of the last inning hits for Frenchtown to stave off elimination against Anaconda and Columbia Falls, then a clutch extra inning stroke to reel in the championship. While the perspective of this viewer would contend that the officiating played too large a role in shaping crucial segments of the championship contest that ought to have relied more heavily upon the execution of plays by the players themselves, hats go off to the Frenchtown Lady Broncs who kept the game within striking distance to provide themselves with a chance and then capitalized on opportunities when they presented themselves.
LP ROSTER RECONFIGURATIONS STEMMING FROM GRADUATION, ET AL
The Lady Pirates graduated a quartet of key contributors as well as will have to fare without another pair, bringing the total of roster attrition to a half dozen players.
The biggest change to the lineup will be the absence of four year hurler Shalaina Duford, who closed out her prep career as the winningest pitcher in Montana prep softball history among all classifications with a cumulative 85-19 record, surpassing the previous mark of 74-12 held by Kate Street of Florence (according to 1 Jun 2007 Missoulian). Duford posted a MHSA cumulative career 1.89 ERA (168 ER / 622.33 IP x 7 ), tallied 521 career strikeouts (172+125+102+122) and recorded 223 career putouts (52+56+53+62), the latter figure indicative that she was one of the better defensive pitchers when viewed in conjunction with her strikeout count. Her prep athletic accolades include volleyball twice all-state, twice all-conference 1st-team recognition as well as softball 10U ASA 2006 state champion, four-time all-tournament (2010 MVP), thrice all-state, four-time all-conference 1st-team and Great Falls Tribune Super State softball selectee. Duford pitching record was 25-3 her senior year with a 1.52 ERA that included 172 strikeouts and direct involvement with 52 putouts. Her senior year at the plate generated a .465 Avg, 43 R, 46 H, 9 2B, 5 HR, 39 RBIs along with 5 SB thrown in for good measure. She is currently extending her softball career at the collegiate level as a Sasquatch with Spokane Falls Community College.
Duford prep career MHSA stats = (.460 Avg, 127 R, 159 H, 33 2B, 2 3B, 12 HR, 135 RBI in MHSA 2010-13).
Duford prep career ASA stats w/ 16U Polson Purple Rain =
(.438 Avg, 105 R, 141 H, 21 2B, 5 3B, 6 HR, 99 RBI, 8 SB in 16U ASA 09-12 + 9AB 13).
Duford cumulative MHSA+ASA stats (.449 Avg, 232 R, 300 H, 54 2B, 7 3B, 18 HR, 234 RBI, 13 SB).
The ASA tabulations do not take into account stat contributions accrued from playing on other ASA clubs.
Those who may be interested in keeping tabs on Duford’s collegiate career can view periodic team updates at the following web location: CCS stats < http://nwaac_sb.bbstats.pointstreak.com/team_stats.html?teamid=31269&seasonid=27364 >
The 2013 rendition of the Lady Pirate roster also graduated a pair of bludgeoning bats as well as gathering golden gloves in softball all-state, twice all-conference 1st-team infielder Martina Marquardt (.415 Avg, 35R, 39H, 7 2B, 7HR, 36RBIs, 3 SB in MHSA 2013) and volleyball all-state, twice all-conference (1st-tm 12, hm 11); basketball twice all-conference (1st-tm 12-13, 2nd-tm 11-12) and softball twice all-tournament, twice all-state, thrice all-conference 1st-team outfielder Heidi Rausch (.453 Avg, 44R, 39H, 10 2B, 2 3B, 10HR, 46 RBIs, 4SB in MHSA 2013).
Marquardt prep career MHSA stats = (.391 Avg, 82R, 99H, 9 2B, 2 3B, 14HR, 94RBI, 5SB in MHSA 2010-13)
Marquardt 2 season prep career ASA stats w/ 16U Polson Purple Rain =
(.376 Avg, 40R, 50H, 8 2B, 3 3B, 3HR, 33RBI in 16U ASA PPR 2010-11)
Marquardt 2 season prep career ASA stats w/ Montana Avalanche unavailable in time for article submission.
Marquardt cumulative MHSA+ASA stats = (.386 Avg, 122R, 149H, 17 2B, 5 3B, 17HR, 127RBI w/o MTAv stats).
Marquardt is extending her softball career at the collegiate level with the Williston State College Tetons. Those who are interested in keeping tabs of her progress can view game writeups or consult cumulative stats at the following cyber locations: WSC softball weblink < http://wsctetons.com/index.aspx?path=softball&&tab=0 >
WSC stats < http://stats.njcaa.org/sports/sball/2013-14/div2/teams/willistonstatecollege?view=lineup >.
Over the course of 18 games, Marquardt had been hitting north of a .500 Avg with 20 extra base hits that include 9 dingers for yard.
Rausch prep career MHSA stats = (.424 Avg, 120 R, 111 H, 24 2B, 6 3B, 21 HR, 105 RBI, 12 SB in MHSA 2010-13). Rausch 2 season prep career ASA stats w/ 16U Polson Purple Rain =
(.448 Avg, 53R, 64H, 4 2B, 5 3B, 6HR, 41 RBI, 3SB 16U ASA PPR 2010-11).
Rausch single season prep career ASA stats w/ Montana Avalanche unavailable in time for article submission.
Rausch cumulative MHSA+ASA stats = (.432 Avg, 173R, 175H, 28 2B, 11 3B, 27HR, 146RBI, 15SB w/o MTAv stats).
Heidi Rausch is pursuing a future career in some aspect of the medical profession and the requirements associated with having to assimilate so much scientific minutiae precluded her continuation in athletics at the collegiate level.
Polson also graduated a proficient slap-bunter and basepath blazer in softball all-conference 2nd-team outfielder Jordyn Evertz (.392 Avg, 31 R, 29 H, 1 2B, 10 RBI, 4 SB in MHSA 2013).
Evertz prep career MHSA stats = (.358 Avg, 49 R, 43 H, 14 RBI, 5 SB over abbreviated MHSA 2011-13 career)
Evertz 2 season prep career ASA stats w/ Polson Purple Rain = (.364 Avg, 14 R, 20H, 12 RBI, 2SB in 16U ASA 2009,11). Evertz would have tallied much more extensive numbers, but her softball playing was curtailed for a large swath of time recovering from a broken elbow from being hit by a pitch at the Butte Combo Softball Tournament her junior season.
The Lady Pirates will also be faring without the services of reserve pitcher Kylie Murphy as well as infielder Jaelyn Ellenwood. Murphy, a twice decorated ASA state champion (10U 2009, 14U 2011) who plays for the Northwest Sidewinders during the off season, is recovering from a minor corrective procedure, while other commitments infringed upon the participation of Ellenwood.
Ellenwood cumulative MHSA+ASA stats = (.283 Avg, 21 R, 16 H, 1 2B, 8 RBI cumulative 16U ASA 2012 & MHSA 2013).
2014 POLSON LADY PIRATE FASTPITCH SOFTBALL ROSTER(S)
Leading off in the batting order and covering behind the plate is three-time all-state, four-time all-conference golfer and softball 10U ASA 2006 state champion, all-state, twice all-conference (1st-tm 13, 2nd-tm 12) senior catcher Jaylin Kenney (.471 Avg, 49 R, 48 H, 5 2B, 3 3B, 27 RBIs, 13 SB in MHSA 13)(.551 Avg, 18 R, 43 H, 2 2B, 3 3B, 11 RBI in 16U ASA 13), who has engraved her name among a memorable tradition of Lady Pirate catchers. Kenney regularly displays an acute awareness of what is going on in the game around her when she strategically executes difficult plays at crucial junctures of a contest by making them look seemingly routine, much like she snuffing the potential go ahead run against visiting Frenchtown with a heads up play at the plate that could have rendered moot an opportunity for her team to extend that game into extra innings for the win. At the offensive end of the spectrum, Jaylin is not only adept at getting on base with her slap-bunting capabilities, but also with her base running acumen. Kenney is among a select group who share a rare collection of prep athletic accomplishments in that she has played a role in two different Polson High School sport three-peats - all three fall seasons as an integral member of a girls golf 3-peat (Fall 2011-13) and a pair of spring seasons as part of the Lady Pirate softball 3-peat (Spr 2010-12).
Basketball all-conference (hm 12-13) and softball 10U ASA 2006 state champion, thrice all-conference 1st-team (if 13, of 12, ut 11), all-tournament (2013) senior pitcher/infielder/outfielder Jessica “JiB” Bagnell (.406 Avg, 39 R, 41 H, 9 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR 26 RBIs, 5 SB in MHSA 13) will seek to reconstrue her apropos acronym of a nickname by jamming inattentive batters from the mound while she launches balls into orbit at the plate by jettisoning them into the blue like a softball version of an astrophysicist repositioning satellites. When Bagnell finds her groove and gets into a zone, she can inflict a lot of damage on opposing teams like what occurred during the 2011 State A tournament when she hit 7-9 with multiple extra base hits against some of the best competition on the mound in the state as a mere freshman. Jess has a rare opportunity that lies before her in that she could complete the softball equivalent of a playing card royal flush with a solid season on the mound should it result in an all-conference accolade, thereby netting her an all-around collection of recognition as a frosh utility player, sophomore outfielder, junior infielder and finally senior pitcher.
Two-time ASA (10U 2006, 14U 2011) state champion senior outfielder Kyrie Bitterman (.214 Avg, 5 R, 3 H, 2 RBI, 1SB in MHSA 13)(.409 Avg, 24 R, 47 H, 8 2B, 3 3B, 24 RBI over 2 seasons of 16U ASA 12-13) is a strong defensive outfielder who is adept at reading trajectories of a ball in flight. Clobberin Kyrie revels in other K sounding phonemes like collision or contact, whether by shucking a dribbler off the ball on the soccer pitch or when it comes to placing a bat on the ball in fastpitch, only with the latter she gets to utilize her hands to wield a wand with which to cast a spell upon the opposing pitcher. Bitterman tied for the third highest number of hits on the 16U ASA squad this past summer.
Volleyball all-state, twice all-conference (1st-tm 13, 2nd-tm 12) and softball 14U ASA 2011 state champion junior centerfielder Jaiden Toth (.328 Avg, 16 R, 21 H, 2 2B, 1 3B, 17 RBI, 1 SB in MHSA 13)(.463 Avg, 47 R, 63 H, 8 2B, 1 3B, 20 RBI over 2 seasons of 16U ASA 12-13) is one of the versatile Lady Pirate switch hitters who can slap-bunt from either side of the plate. Her acceleration out of the batters box tends to place added pressure on the fielder to such an extent that often she is able to outrun much of the coverage. Once on board, any blink of the eye can be to the detriment of a fielder on account of the threat of Toth to advance her way around the basepath.
14U ASA 2011 state champion junior third base infielder Taylor Brackey (.219 Avg, 11 R, 7 H, 2 2B, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 1 SB in MHSA 13)(.390 Avg, 42 R, 55 H, 13 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 41 RBI over 2 seasons of 16U ASA 12-13) has good fielding skills that coincide with a sound defensive glove and strong throwing arm for snuffing out potential base runners. Brackey also has deceptive speed when it comes time for motoring around the base path, making her a threat to score during hit-and-run scenarios. When the “Brack” goes on the attack, it tends to spell trouble with a capital T for opposing teams.
14U ASA 2011 state champion junior first base infielder Kaelen Wall (.286 Avg, 8 R, 8 H, 2 2B, 2 3B, 6 RBI in MHSA 13)(.394 Avg, 32 R, 43 H, 5 2B, 4 3B, 27 RBI over 2 seasons of 16U ASA 12-13) is another player with a strong arm as well as quick reflexes for making things happen in a hurry at both the defensive as well as offensive ends of the spectrum. The reservoir of Wall’s underlying potential is at the early stages of being tapped. Like a Bakken oilfield find in the Dakotas, her capabilities could supply Pirate coffers with a strategic supply of unearthed treasures that bode well for the overall fortunes of the team.
14U ASA 2011 state champion junior utility Sarah Rausch (.205 Avg, 13 R, 8 H, 1 2B, 10 RBI, 1 SB in MHSA 13)(3R, 4 H, 3 RBI in limited appearances of 16U ASA 13) provides the Lady Pirate lineup with substantial versatility at numerous positions as well as provides a solid backup reserve behind the plate. Rausch is a consistent batter, a solid pinch hitter who places the bat on the ball, puts it into play and rarely strikes out. This penchant was no better reflected than when she not only got a hit in her very first varsity at-bat, but also managed to generate a run scoring RBI in the process.
Basketball all-conference honorable mention and 14U ASA 2011 state champion junior infielder/outfielder Skyla Krantz (.364 Avg, 3 R, 4 H, 2 RBI in MHSA 13)(.417 Avg, 31 R, 50 H, 1 2B, 14 RBI over 2 seasons of 16U ASA 12-13) has a good eye at the plate and quick acceleration for stretching plays on the base path into something more than initially anticipated. A capable fielder with a nice arm, Krantz provides the Lady Pirates with added versatility for covering infield or outfield defensive assignments.
10U ASA 2009 state champion as well as all-conference (ut 13) sophomore shortstop Hannah Potter (.362 Avg, 24 R, 17 H, 3 2B, 2 HR, 22 RBI, 4 SB in MHSA 13)(.300 Avg, 20 R, 21 H, 2 2B, 1 HR, 12 RBI in 16U ASA 13) is a gem of a fielder with fluid moves for intercepting the trajectories of could-have-been hits by absorbing them into her vacuum cleaner of a glove and then throwing out the runner to eradicate a potentially untidy situation. The namesake acronym HP derived from her name might initially appear to bear an association with tech sector company Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), but rather might very well stand for the hefty punch she packs, the hammerin potential of her deceptive power at the plate or even her willingness to “take one for the team” so-to-speak when she is hit by a pitch to get on base.
14U ASA 2011 state champion sophomore outfielder Lydia Dupuis (.281 Avg, 12 R, 18 H, 1 2B, 3 RBI in 16U ASA 13) is a versatile player who provides roster depth on account of her aptitude at playing multiple positions. Dupuis is one of the emerging Lady Pirate slap bunters with a speedy set of wheels under her chassis for motoring around the base path.
10U ASA 2009 state champion junior outfielder Julia Sanderson (.300ish Avg, 2 2B, 2 3B in 12 gms 14U ASA 2013) is the kind of Jule with multiple facets who can sparkle in different settings around the diamond. Some of that sparkle can be seen exhibited by her array of play execution at the defensive end of the spectrum, while she poses an offensive threat at the plate when she seeks to ca$h in at the scoring register with the ring of cha-ching when she delivers some base hits.
10U ASA 2009 state champion junior infielder/outfielder Natalie Slonaker (.355 Avg, 11 R, 22 H, 5 2B, 12 RBI in 16U ASA 13) is far from an inconspicuous Lady Pirate newcomer, for this Nat not only packs a bite with her bat at the plate, but can also annoy aspiring hitters with a swarm of defensive plays that engulf could-have-been base hits with her glove.
Freshman pitcher/infielder Emma Shew often exhibits a greater degree of poise than that typically associated with incoming underclassmen. Extrapolating from records of the preceding 14U ASA summer softball season entailing slightly over two dozen games, Shew posted a batting average in excess of .400 that also included multiple extra base hits as well as RBIs and further contributed her athletic aptitude from the mound to further ensure some of those victories for her team.
Speech & Debater (State - 5th SOI, Div - 5th OO, 6th SOI) junior outfielder Kania Smith (.319 Avg, 9 R, 15 H, 5 2B, 1 HR, 18 RBI in 16U ASA 13) tends to wax eloquent with the kind of defensive glove work that can quickly settle an argument about would-be base running. But when the other half of the inning rolls around and her turn comes to stand at the plate, Smith lets her bat do most of the talking.
LADY PIRATE JUNIOR VARSITY
Along with some of the varsity reserves covering various positions during junior varsity contests, an influx of capable freshman infuse the talent pool from which the Lady Pirate softball program will be drawing from over the next several seasons. These include outfielder Whitney Barr, infielder/catcher Ashley Benson, infielder/outfielder Mikayla Croft, outfielder/infielder Mollie Fisher, infielder Hannah Fryberger, pitcher/shortstop Haley Fyant, outfielder Alexis Geldrich, third base/shortstop Breyland McColl and catcher/pitcher/outfielder Camas Renault. These incoming first year players do not quite fit stereotypical expectations associated with underclassmen when it comes to softball seasoning as many of them bring with them multiple season of playing competitive summer ASA fastpitch.
PRESEASON OUTLOOK, ANALYSIS AND PROGNOSIS
Veteran 27th year head coach Larry Smith and 4th year assistant coach Don Toth embark upon a new season with the task of recalibrating the current roster into a club that continues to contend at the caliber of its predecessors. The Lady Pirates will seek to retrofit some of its graduated firepower with an infusion of new talents who will be called upon to fill those vacated shoes with their own blend of collective contributions and cohesiveness. Those who have departed collectively contributed to the coffers of the pillaging Pirates 123 extra base hits and accounted for 348 RBIs during the course of their collective careers. Those kinds of numbers are not easily replaced overnight. But on the flip side of the coin, many among the new generation of prospective Lady Pirate pool of talents bring with them state championship hardware credentials of the ASA variety that indicate a substantial level of acquired skill being brought to the mix despite the lack of innings played at the high school level. Consequently, one would be inclined to situate the 2014 rendition of Lady Pirate softball players as aligning somewhere between a reloading and rebuilding phase, with which direction of the tilt yet to be determined until after the new schedule unfolds to provide some further clues.
As the community of Polson gears up to host the 2014 State A tournament at the end of this season after a four year hiatus, the Lady Pirates themselves will have plenty of work that lies ahead of them to nurture their prospects for qualifying for a slot to play in their own backyard tournament. One opinion that circulated among Montana prep softball circles the past few seasons was that a quartet of the top half dozen or so teams around the state were all concentrated in the northwestern sector of the state. That assessment would seem to have been borne out by the 1-2-3 finish of NWA teams at the state tournament last season, a combined regular schedule won-loss record of 54-12 prior to the throwing of the first postseason pitch, which translates into a ratio of better than 4 wins to every single loss. At the LaVerne Combo Softball Invitational held at Butte last season around mid-May, this same trio of NWA teams tallied a collective 114-16 runs in comparison to their across the state opponents, a ratio which translates into almost 7 runs for every score generated by the offense of the other team. That figure does not take into account the Libby Lady Loggers, who also went 4-0 against their Butte Combo competition, outscoring their opposition by a better than 2:1 ratio that included a ten run rule rampage. When it comes to making an attempt at foretelling trends likely to emerge for this upcoming season, the adage “the more things change, the more they tend to stay the same” would seem to be applicable. These figures are brought up to merely point out that the competition among NWA representatives on a quest to qualify for less state tournament slots than there are solid teams contending for them is liable to get fierce as the latter part of the regular schedule winds down to its culmination. Of this contending quartet, someone is going to end up with their aspirations derailed from qualifying to showcase their stuff on the postseason dance floor. One of the sad aspects about this situation is that whichever team gets squeezed out at the end, they would likely represent the NWA Division well based upon the dominant performances over other teams around the state cited above. It goes without saying that Polson would like to avoid the embarrassment of being relegated to the sidelines as impartial spectators instead of from the dugout as vested participants if circumstances within the sphere of their control were to deny them an opportunity to shape the outcome of a state tournament hosted in their very own backyard.
The Lady Pirates inaugurate the new softball season on Saturday, the 29th of March, with the hosting of a quadrangle against the visiting Lady Copperheads from Anaconda, followed by a subsequent game against the Lady Maroons of Butte Central, both visiting teams facing off against the Libby Lady Loggers in reverse order. Junior varsity contests begin at 11am and 3pm, while varsity matchups commence at 1pm and 5pm respectively, weather cooperating.
Lady Pirate & Purple Rain statistics provided courtesy of coach Larry Smith
14U ASA statistics provided courtesy of ASA coach Bonnie Klein
The author is indebted to the coaching staff for input pertaining to less familiar players
A CURSORY GLANCE AT OTHER NWA DIVISION SOFTBALL TEAMS
FRENCHTOWN LADY BRONCS
The defending 2013 state A champion Frenchtown Lady Broncs look to be in the drivers seat when it comes to defending their state title. If another team fancies taking over the driving in the NWA Division, it would appear they may have to have to sieze hold of the steering wheel to leverage Frenchtown to slide over. Their roster may have graduated a trio of significant contributors in Utah State Aggie Abby Indreland (see collegiate link below), Holly Jacobs and Larissa Berg, but since they return a solid core of their lineup, they look to be merely reloading for the current season.
Their most decorated marquee returnee is none other than softball 2013 Gatorade player of the year, all-tournament (MVP), all-state, all-conference 1st-team THE Ohio State softball bound junior pitcher/outfielder Morgan Ray (vb all-state, 2x all-conf 1st-tm), who compiled a 14-1 record last season with over 200 strikeouts in more than 100 innings pitched. Adding further insult to injury regarding her dominance from the mound was her swing of the bat at the plate, where she posted a batting average slightly north of .500 with close to a dozen and a half extra base hits that included a half dozen home runs along with 39 RBIs. Veteran Polson softball coach Larry Smith considers Ray to be the best pitcher in the state regardless of classification. Fellow accolade decorated Broncs bomber returnees include senior 3rd-base infielder Keegan Wickman (all-conf 1st-tm, mid-.400 Avg, dbl fig xtra base hits, 42 RBIs), Concordia University hoops bound senior infielder Kayla Blood (upper-.300 Avg, handful of xtra base hits, sb all-trny, all-conf 1st-tm/gbb all-state 12-13, 3x all-conf 1st-tm) and MSU-Billings basketball bound senior 1st-base infielder Vanessa Stavish (mid-.300 Avg, 9 xtra base hits, 28 RBIs, sb all-trny, all-conf 2nd-tm / vb 2x all-conf [1st-tm 13, 2nd-tm 12] / gbb all-trny, 2x all-state, 3x all-conf 1st-tm). The rest of the Frenchtown posse will draw from a reservoir of talents that includes University of Great Falls volleyball bound senior infielder/outfielder Josie Anderson (13+R / vb 2x all-conf [1st-tm 13, 2nd-tm 11]) and a juxtaposition of juniors with infielder Gabby Martello as well as outfielders Krista Hebnes (mid-.300 Avg, 21H, 14RBIs) and Emma Pyron (1HR). The Lady Bronc sophomore contingent incorporates outfielder Alli Moe (gbb all-conf hm), catcher/infielder/outfielder Brooke Yarnall (sc all-state), infielder Shelby Shourds and infielder/outfielder/pitcher Laci Willett, the latter who is slated to provide Ray with some mound relief with some pretty decent stuff of her own. The Lady Broncs look to get an additional boost to their roster with an infusion of new additions that include junior catcher/outfielder/infielder Haley Cyr (vb all-conf hm, gbb 2x all-conf 2nd-tm) and senior Southern Utah University softball bound catcher/infielder Kaylee Prather, the latter who has played multiple seasons of ASA club softball with the Seattle area based Absolute Blast Fastpitch Club, most recently with the 18U Gold Glenn Team.
COLUMBIA FALLS WILDKATS
Last season the Columbia Falls Wildkats were a mere couple of outs away from sending the undefeated semifinal game into extra innings. Had they succeeded, one is left to speculate whether it might have changed the ultimate outcome of the tournament. Two seasons ago at the 2012 tournament, the Kats would finish 4th. Last year they climbed the postseason ladder another rung to finish with 3rd place hardware in a bronze medal. Based on a charting of their trajectory, one is inclined to surmise that their softball program is on the upward ascent, which puts their fellow divisional rivals on notice that these felines are not to be trifled with. Columbia Falls returns a quartet of accolade accentuated athletes. Their most decorated is 2013 all-tournament, all-state, twice all-conference (1st-tm 13, 2nd-tm 12) junior pitcher/infielder Ashley Trueblood, otherwise identified merely by the moniker acronym of AJ, who compiled a 15-10 won-loss record and batted almost .400 with double figure extra base hits that generated over 20 RBIs. Providing her run support as well as backing her up on defense is twice all-conference 2nd-team Dakota College Bottineau bound senior utility Tiffany Hummer (circa .300 Avg with fistful of xtra base hits as well as RBIs / vb 2x all-conf [2nd-tm 12, hm 13]), all-tournament junior shortstop/pitcher Winter Kemppainen (circa .300 Avg, handful of xtra base hits, RBIs / gbb all-state, 2x all-conf [1st tm 13-14, 2nd-tm 12-13] / vb all-conf 2nd-tm) and all-conference 1st-team junior outfield/infielder Carlee Brown (upper .300 Avg, handful of RBIs). Rounding out the returnees include a trio of seniors in catcher/infielder Courtney Murray (.200ish Avg, dbl digit hits, handful for xtra bases, dbl digit RBIs), infielder Lauren Fields (circa .400 Avg) as well as infielder/outfielder Amanda Morrison (mid-.200 Avg, dbl digit hits, handful RBIs) and another trio of juniors in outfielder/infielder Madi Fetters (.300ish Avg, dbl digit hits w/ 1HR, handful of RBIs), catcher/infielder Breanna Friar and outfielder Kaitlyn Hoerner.
On account of the amount of snowfall this winter that is reputed to be the most in some 70 years, the team has not had an opportunity to play outdoors on their field. Consequently, others may be integrated into the roster once skill levels can be more adequately ascertained.
LIBBY LADY LOGGERS
For the past trio of seasons, Libby has been squeezed out of participation in the State A tournament, their last appearance taking place in 2009 the year after they won the whole thing in 2008. Needless to say, these Lady Logger lassies lugging lumber are hungry for the opportunity to swing their bats in the postseason. Last year they pretty much split their overall won-loss record down the middle, a half dozen of their losses coming at the hands of their division rivals. Both games against third place Columbia Falls were decided by the short end of a mere run and the Lady Loggers split their contests with AA Kalispell teams 1-1, implementing the ten run rule against the Flathead Bravettes. An athletic freshman class a few seasons ago are now a more seasoned group, which suggests they will be tougher than in seasons past.
Hurling from the mound will be twice all-conference 2nd-team junior pitcher Hannah England (vb 2x all-conf 2nd-tm/ gbb all-conf 2nd-tm 12-13), who also swung the bat from the leadoff position at a .300ish clip to help her own cause. Her accolade decorated comrades include twice all-conference (1st-tm 13, 2nd-tm 12) senior centerfielder Kelsey Klin (upper .400 Avg, multiple dozen hits, dbl digit xtra bases & RBIs), all-conference 2nd-team junior second base infielder Rachel Rebo (mid.300 Avg, dbl digit hits, handful xtra bases) and twice all-conference (2nd-tm 13, hm 12) junior shortstop Mahalah Wedel (upper .200 Avg, dbl digit hits / vb 2x all-conf 2nd-tm). Rounding out the roster of returnees includes a juxtaposition of juniors in third base infielder Auria Benefield (mid-.200 Avg, teen hits, dbl digit RBIs), catcher Devon Gallagher (almost .300 Avg, 20 hits, handful RBIs / vb all-conf hm), first base infielder/catcher Dalyn Germany (mid-.200 Avg, teen hits, handful RBIs) and rightfielder/pitcher Staci Regh. Along with Klin, senior outfielder Brooke Rosling (circa .200 Avg) is the only other upperclass returnee from last season. Sophomore leftfielder Kyra Lauer is anticipated to contribute on account of her emerging slap-bunting capabilities, while freshman infielder Abbey Ennenga has already seen action in the early going on account of her accelerated skill sets. Others are liable to emerge as contributors with the unfolding of the season. Germany sometimes platoons with Gallagher behind the plate, providing the Libby Lady Loggers with a unique distinction of practicing a variation of international détente with their occasional “England to Germany” pitcher-catcher battery.
WHITEFISH LADY BULLDOGS
Although the Whitefish Lady Bulldogs only won a couple of nonconference games last year, those two victories were two more than as many as had been won the previous pair of seasons combined. The team also came within a couple of runs of notching a trio of other no conference victories, demonstrating significant improvement overall. Third year head coach Carrie Lamb is optimistic about the upcoming new season, identifying this current bunch as the most athletic group she has thus far coached. Although the team is young, she has a substantial amount of returnees who have accrued valuable experience in addition to an influx of new faces bringing with them a higher degree of softball experience. Consequently, it is anticipated that the team that has languished at the bottom of the most competitive division in Class A around the state that last three seasons will be showing some signs of improvement from their tutelage at the hands of NWA rivals as they attempt to put forth a more competitive showing this go around.
The Lady Bulldogs return a pair of accolade acknowledged players in twice all-conference honorable mention leadoff batting junior outfielder Malia Morris and all-conference honorable mention junior utility Micah McFeely (.200ish Avg, verge of dbl digit hits). The most prolific hitter for the Lady Bulldogs last season was sophomore 1st base infielder/outfielder MacKenzie Carl, boasted a batting average in the mid-.400 range, racking up double digit hits that included a pair for extra bases and some RBIs. Junior 2nd base infielder/outfielder Georgia Donaldson was batting just shy of .300 while generating some RBIs, while junior pitcher/infielder Halle Reading was batting in the upper range of a mid-.200 average with double figures for base hits. Sophomore outfielder Abby Reese drafted her junior sibling Jillian Reese (infield) to not only keep scorekeepers on their toes about which Reese is which, but also to double the pleasure for the team when both of them start knocking in some runs. Whitefish is also looking forward to contributions from some fresh faces to the team in Spokane tranfer sophomore infielder Michaela McDowell and Cutbank transfer sophomore pitcher/infielder Jordan Sletten. Other contributors are liable to emerge as the season unfolds, but lack of familiarity with them by this writer precluded their inclusion in this writeup.
The author is indebted to each NWA team coaching staff for their input
2013 sb stat citations derived from NWA conference website compilation < ihigh.com/nwmta >
ONLINE LINKS TO MISSION VALLEY & NWA AFFILIATED SOFTBALL PLAYERS EXTENDING THEIR ATHLETIC CAREERS AT THE COLLEGIATE OR JUCO LEVEL:
Tina Marquardt (Polson) attending Williston State College
WSC softball weblink < http://wsctetons.com/index.aspx?path=softball&&tab=0 >
WSC stats < http://stats.njcaa.org/sports/sball/2013-14/div2/teams/willistonstatecollege?view=lineup >
Shay Duford (Polson)
CCS stats < http://nwaac_sb.bbstats.pointstreak.com/team_stats.html?teamid=31269&seasonid=27364 >
Kinley Pope (Mission-Arlee-Charlo aka MAC) & Ashleigh Lynch (Ronan)
WVC softball weblink < http://www.wvc.edu/directory/departments/athletics/fastpitch/fastpitchnews.asp >
wvc stats < http://nwaac_sb.bbstats.pointstreak.com/team_stats.html?teamid=31266&seasonid=27364 >
Abby Indreland (Frenchtown), Utah State Aggies
USU stats < http://www.utahstateaggies.com/sports/w-softbl/stats/2013-2014/teamcume.html >
Bethany Coleman (Ronan) & Kathrin Jetty (CFalls) at Dakota College at Bottineau
DCB softball weblink < http://www.dakotacollege.edu/softball.php >
DCB stats < http://stats.njcaa.org/sports/sball/2013-14/div3/teams/dakotacollegeatbottineau?view=lineup >