Polson High School softball coach Larry Smith has been around the game of softball long enough to know his team has talent.
Smith knows when his talent gains additional experience, they could be in the conversation to qualify for another state bid and possibly even more.
Both the Lady Pirates’ talent and inexperience were on full display in their 8-5 victory over the Libby softball team Friday afternoon at Polson High School’s softball stadium.
“I think the team is gelling and overall, we are very young and inexperienced in softball,” Smith said. “Games like this give our new players, ones that haven’t been through stressful games like this, experience. We will go through a lot more in our conference. It really shows our team’s toughness. They are still young and will make mistakes but I was telling the girls after the game that we really showed overall what we have going on here and we are starting to gel at this juncture of the season.”
Polson, who surrendered four early runs, was in trouble against the Lady Loggers, who has the caliber of pitching that thrives with the lead. Armed with one of the best pitchers in Class A, Khalyn Hageness, the Lady Loggers aren’t a team that is built to lose with the lead.
“We gave up four runs in the first and that was a big hole for girls to climb out of against a real quality opponent,” Smith said. “Normally, a team of that quality is going to take advantage of that and not let you back in the game. Against Libby, we showed our toughness in getting back into it and won the game in the end.”
Going into the season, the Lady Loggers were picked by many to win the conference and the Lady Pirates, a team that has become accustomed to competing for a conference and a Divisional title every year, used the preseason prediction as a source of intrinsic motivation.
A primary reason the Lady Loggers have high expectations entering the season is their team’s level of experience.
“Our team expects to be No. 1 no matter what the coaches and media may think,” Smith said. “I always feel this bunch wants to be the best in the conference and the state. It gives us a big incentive to go out, play hard and give it our all (in every game).”
Polson pitcher Vanessa Kent, who is a transfer player who played with Mission-Arlee-Charlo last season, is starting to gain confidence, according to Smith.
“As far as confidence goes, we are building confidence in our younger kids that are filling spots, weren’t quite understanding and have never been through these types of games, pressure and tension,” Smith said. “Game tension is much different in the summer playing in the JV. There are a lot of expectations when you play Lady Pirates softball and they are doing a good job.”
Smith said he felt his team is improving in every aspect of their game.
“Everything is improving and that is what we need to do from day one,” Smith said. “Each week, we get a little bit better and we increasingly become a little more constant. We hope to take something away from each practice, practice with a purpose and gain something each day. Even if it is a minute part of the day, we always want to improve moving forward.”
Polson 8, Libby 5
Polson (1-0, 2-1), Libby (1-1)
Libby 400 001 0 – 5 6 3*
Polson 015 200 x – 8 11 1*
Khalyn Hageness (4K) and Sammee Bradeen. Vanessa Kent (2K) and Kaylanna DesJarlais. W – Kent (2-1). L – Khalyn Hageness.
LIBBY – Linsey Walker 0-3, Hageness 0-4, Jayden Winslow 1-3, Emily Carvey 0-2, Bradeen 1-3, Haylee Cannon 2-3, Sheyla Gallagher 1-1, Bridgett Haskins 1-3, Keira Ward 0-2, (cr) Bethany Thomas. 0-3.
POLSON – Kaelyn Smith 2-3, Laurel Bitterman 0-4, Quinn Motichka 1-4, Dejarlais 2-3, Josie Caye 2-4, Marina Mayorga 2-3, Grace Quinones 0-2, Paige Noyes 1-3, Lisa Costilla 0-0, Olivia Perez 1-2, (cr) Cali Cannon.
2B – Smith, *Noyes. RBIs – Bradeen, Cannon, Gallagher, *Ward. Smith *3, Mayorga, Quinones, Noyes, Perez 2. SacF – Ward; Quinones. BB – Walker, Carvey, Gallagher 2, Winslow, Smith, DesJarlais, Costilla, Mayorga. ROE – Hageness(t7); Quinones, Bitterman. SB – H.Cannon; Smith 2 (3rd), C.Cannon 2, DesJarlais, Mayorga. CS – Caye, Mayorga. DP – Libby 1(b6),Polson 2(t1,7t). (Th29Mar18)
Asterisk (*) denotes stat variant(*) where visitor specs differ from home assessment: L:7H,6E/P:7H,0E. Ward RBI not reflected despite sacrifice fly. Media shortchange Smith an RBI. Bradeen reported with 2ab.
B3,ab3– Josie Caye laced a lazer liner into left center, the Libby centerfielder jumping on her horse in an attempt to intercept. Her outstretched glove would just graze the ball enough to redirect its descending trajectory. Libby scored as an error. This assessment scored as a hit. Rationale: the quality of the plate appearance as well as the above ordinary effort of the fielder should not be penalized just because their glove nicked the ball when another player wouldn’t have even got close. Caye was held to a single as opposed to the play becoming an extra base hit.
B4,ab5 – Noyes (2B+tE) stroked solid RBI generating extra base hit, a solid 2B double, advancing to third on a throwing error. Media reports as 3B triple.