2014 State ASA Junior Olympic Softball Tournament
July 10, 2014Northwest Montana A Conference
A Mission Valley Area Player Primer for tracking the
2014 State ASA Junior Olympic Softball Tournament
cobbled together by John Heglie
NOTE TO READERS: An abridged version of the following article is featured in print by the Lake County Leader (Th. 10 July 2014) B2 with an accompanying photo of a trio of the local Mission Valley teams.
The 2014 State ASA Junior Olympics softball tournament takes place in Missoula this July 11-13 weekend, pitting multiple teams against one another in five different age levels from 10U through 18U. In anticipation for this upcoming event, it was thought that a cursory primer of sorts would be in order previewing some of the teams that feature players from the Mission Valley area. Often the media will report scores, but the average reader is unaware as to who might be playing on which team. It is hoped that providing such a softball player primer will assist in bridging some of these gaps in awareness as well as heighten fan appreciation. Each of the brackets themselves are posted on the Montana ASA softball website < http://missoulaasasoftball.com/ > following the JO Softball tab or brackets can also be viewed at the Polson Fastpitch website < http://www.leaguelineup.com/welcome.asp?url=polsonfastpitch > under handouts. How the tournament was going to go about updating softball team progression through the brackets was still under discussion at the time this article was submitted. In the event this consideration reached a resolution, the teams should be able to be tracked at the Montana ASA softball website in a similar manner.
- · 10U Polson Lil Lakers - The Lil Lakers might have started out the beginning of the summer softball schedule with a number of unknowns, but as the season winds down to its final games, they now have to be considered a team to be reckoned with. The Lil Lakers have compiled an impressive 25-2 record bolstered by four tournament gold bracket championships and a third place finish across-the-border in Couer d’Alene at the inception of the season. It should be pointed out that those two losses took place in their very first tournament and were by a mere 2 runs each against teams that hailed from Spokane and Seattle, squads derived from quadruple A if not quintuple A classification athletic talent pools laden with crème-de-la-crème all stars. Not only that, but the Lil Lakers both times loaded the bases against their opponents in the final inning before the other side managed to wiggle off the hook against a team which was just starting out the season with only three days of practice under their belts. Each player throughout the top two-thirds of the order has smacked multiple extra-base hits with the upper half supplementing those numbers with inside-the-park variety home runs that cumulatively are approaching close to a dozen. The squad has a healthy team dynamic about them in which the whole is strengthened by each contribution from the sum of its parts. They are also having a lot of fun playing a high quality variety of softball. Katelyne Druyvestein and Ellie Thiel platoon the pitching duties, Kallie Finkbeiner and Alexys Orien cover behind the plate, while Josie Caye anchors down the crucial shortstop position and the remainder fill in any remaining gaps. From the western portion of the state, the stiffiest 10U competition is anticipated to come either from the Missoula-based MTAvs (Tipps) team, against whom Polson had to rally to win the Polson Splash Classic, or the Great Falls Selects Green (Mitchell). The strongest teams from the eastern side of the state remain a question mark as they have not had to face their variety of competition. Going out on a limb, the chances for the Lil Lakers team to bring home some variety of hardware would have to be considered better than average, but so many variables come into play with this age level that one would be ill advised to dare count any chickens before they actually hatch. Polson has won two ASA 10U state championships in its summer softball history - in 2006 with Shalaina Duford on the mound (the winningest pitcher in Montana prep softball at 85-19), and in 2009 with Kylie Murphy throwing from the circle (also 14U ASA 2011 state champion hurler). The Lil Laker opening round game takes place on Friday noon at the Playfair Complex in Missoula.
- · 10U Ronan Rimrocks - Their coach points out that the Rimrocks have come a long way since the beginning of the season and are playing well as a team with one of their signature strengths being their defensive fielding. Their progress was no more evident than when they captured 1st place in the silver bracket at a Great Falls tournament earlier in the season.
- · 12U Polson Purple Wave - The Purple Wave have emerged from pool play with top-seedings in a couple of tournaments heading into bracket play, where they have finished third twice while compiling a 12-8 overall record. Coach Juan Perez commented that the team will be working hard in preparation so they can do exceedingly well this weekend with the goal of snaring an ASA 12U championship banner for Polson, the one age bracket which Polson has yet to acquire for its community trophy case. The first round game for the Purple Wave takes place on Friday 10am at the Fort Missoula fields against the Great Falls based Electric City Heat White.
- · 12U Montana Avalanche (Butler) - This Missoula-based MTAvs team features Emilie Corley of Polson as well as Mission Valley residents Shyanne Reum and Tomi Brazill among their roster. Stemming from a quartet of tournaments, these MTAvs have accrued two first place trophies, a second place silver medal and a third place bronze finish. If they put it all together, their chances of placing at the State ASA JO tournament have to be considered decent.
- · 14U Polson Lakers - Although the Lakers have compiled a 9-11 overall record, they have continued to steadily improve as the season has progressed. Had they been able to win just one more game at a pair of tournaments, they could have secured for themselves a place in the championship of the silver bracket at those venues. The team also took fourth place at the Splash Classic hosted by Polson in early June. The bulk of the pitching duties tend to be shouldered by Lauren Vergeront, although both Paige Noyes as well as Micayla Croft have thrown a number of innings from the mound. Covering behind the plate has been either Quinn Motichka or Addie McColl. A quartet of Lakers who have been causing consternation for opponent pitching by wielding the wickedest of wands in a way that would make a mentor at the Harry Potter wizardry school of Hogwarts proud include Vergeront (approx .600 avg), Addie McColl (approx .500 avg) and Croft as well as Motichka, who are both swinging away at around a .400 avg clip. The Polson Lakers took home the gold medal equivalent with the ASA 14U state championship trophy back in 2011.
- · 14U Ronan Maidens - The Maidens found plenty of reasons to smile about improvements in the quality level of their softball skills this season when they placed 3rd at the Frenchtown Fury Fastpitch Summer Sizzler tournament. Among others, the team also features a double dose of Wirz siblings with Gabby hurling from the mound and sister Sadie catching behind the plate, the playmaking of Ysabelle Burland along with Bri Harris as well as periodic injections of contagious enthusiasm for the game invoked by the play of shortstop Courtnee Clairmont. The Maidens play their opening round at Fort Missoula field #4 on Friday at 8am against The Xpress out of Laurel.
- · 14U Mission/Arlee Fastpitch will also be fielding a team in the tournament.
- · 16U Polson Purple Rain - While the Purple Rain may have incurred more losses than tallied victories over the course of the short summer softball season, their capability as a team looms larger than what can be extrapolated from merely consulting their overall record. Many of the teams they have faced during the course of tournaments have been composite teams drawn from AA size school communities, interspersed with multiple18U players that often include collegiate players on their roster who have returned to the area for the summer. By contrast, the Purple Rain are a young team with more than half of a roster comprised of players who could still qualify to play at the 14U level. On those occasions when the Rain have been matched up against teams drawn from communities more comparable in size to their Polson roots and closer in age level, they have been competitive - winning some, dropping others by a narrow margin, even pushing more talent laden teams to the brink. At the State ASA Junior Olympic tournament, teams will be more evenly matched to their age level, although those teams laden with rosters derived from AA classification schools understandably tend to hold an edge over teams comprised of class A or class B-C player pools. How Polson might fare remains to be seen. If they can peak at the right time while cleaning up untimely fielding foibles that have tended to plague them at the most inopportune junctures of several games this season, they are capable to making a little run into the tiers of the bracket. The most productive hitters on the team, who have been swinging the bat like they were auditioning for the role portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix in the M. Night Shyamalan movie SIGNS, have been infielder Kaelyn Smith (slightly north of .500) and Ashley Benson (knocking at the door of a .400 average). The team as a whole has been batting within the vicinity of a .300 average overall, but those figures merit being adjusted northward given the stricter parameters of age classification for this tournament. Polson captured the ASA 16U state softball championship back in 2004 and also reeled in a Summer National Championship after a trip out to Oregon the following year in 2005. The Purple Rain open competition on Saturday 2pm at Fort Missoula field #4 against their archrivals, the Frenchtown Fury.
- · 16U MT Avalanche (Earl) - This Missoula-based MTAvs (Earl) team features a pair of Ronan Maidens among their roster that include Carston Rhine and B-C all-conference 2nd-team infielder Kaitlyn Sassaman. Rather than stick closer to home, the team opted to tangle with the talent featured at out-of-state tournaments that draw their teams from more highly populated urban areas. The expectation is held that the higher degree of difficulty in their scheduling will raise the bar of their own capabilities to such an extent that improvements in executing sounder game fundamentals will translate into improving their chances of advancing deeper into the bracket against in-state competition.
- · 16U Lady Osprey (Delridge) - This Missoula-based Lady O’s team features Mission Lady Bulldog Jordyn Eichert among their roster.
The Missoula-based 18U Montana Avalanche White team features a trio of Mission Valley players on their roster in Polson Lady Pirate products Tina Marquardt as well as Hannah Potter and Ronan Maiden McKenzie Dulmes. Two-time Montana Gatorade Player of the Year Ohio State softball bound Morgan “No-no Mo” Ray of Frenchtown is their primary pitcher, while Dani Walker of Deer Lodge, the first Montanan to make the future Lady Griz softball roster, contributes her skills behind the plate. Both Ray as well as Walker were nominated to the 2014 Great Falls Tribune super state team. The chances for this team to venture deep into the 18U bracket at the state ASA tournament have to be considered good. They have already qualified for a postseason berth in a tournament at the national level.