Purple Rain struggles in Frenchtown, gets ready for Kalispell

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POLSON PURPLE Rain pitcher Vanessa Kent delivers a pitch in a tournament game at the Polson SPLASH Tournament. Kent, and the rest of the Purple Rain, look to rebound at this weekend’s Kalsipell softball tournament. (photo by Jason Blasco/Lake County Leader)

Rain delays and lack of numbers were two contributing factors to the Polson 16, 18-U softball team’s struggles at the Frenchtown Tournament Thursday afternoon at Frenchtown High School.

Purple Rain skipper Larry Smith offered no excuses for his team’s performance in which the team won one game, lost one and tied two contests. Smith said there were a number of variables that influenced the outcome of the tournament.

“We didn’t fare that well and we were the first team (eliminated) out on elimination day,” Smith said. “It rained all day Saturday and we kept waiting and waiting. We finally played our first game at 7 and played another game at 10:30 pm. and schedule it the next morning at 8 a.m. Several of us drove back and forth (from Frenchtown to Polson) and only got about two or three hours of sleep.”

Polson tied with Colville, Washington 2-2 and Libby-Columbia Falls 5-5, a game cut short because of a time limit.

The Spokane Bandits, who turned around and defeated them 8-3 the next day, avenged the game the Rain won with a 10-2 victory.

“This wasn’t a tough tournament and we down there with only about two-thirds of our regular season team,” Smith said. “A couple of our players were absent for various reasons and we only had nine players. A player got hurt in the bottom of the first inning and we lost her to a potential concussion. We had to play with eight players the rest of the game.”

The Rain will travel to Kalispell for this weekend’s upcoming Emerald Splash Tournament June 29-July 1 in Kalispell. There, Polson and their team’s counterparts will play several teams from the region and Canada.

“Usually the kids start out playing pretty well and hopefully we get the most out of our starters because we desperately need to get ten players in case we have a problem,” Smith said. “(This tournament) is really nice and I am looking forward to the 16, 18 team combination. Of the 17 that come to Kalispell, there will be seven or eight of them that come from Canada. I really enjoy playing teams, especially Canadian teams. It makes the tournament experience really exciting.”

Smith, who has been in the softball industry since 1988, has seen the evolution of not only the American softball game, but also the Canadian softball game.

He attributes the growth of the fundamentals to the evolution of the internet.

“The programs are there that allow (instruction) to be easily accessible and even the kids without coaching can get on the web and be coached,” Smith said. “That has really changed in all sports worldwide.”

One reason Smith like’s playing Canadian-style teams is they like to play “small ball,” a style of softball that has made Polson a powerhouse.

“It’s a sport that they’ve really taken up and on the women’s side they’ve had a good quality of softball for years,” Smith said. “When they first started they were usually pretty fundamentally sound. I really enjoy playing most of them because they are very sound teams and a lot of them play small ball: slapping, bunting and usually pretty quick.”

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