The Polson High School softball team has positioned themselves exactly where Lady Pirates’ head coach Larry Smith wants them to be: in control of their own destiny.
The Lady Pirates have all but officially clinched their Montana High School Activities Association Class A softball tournament and now Smith and his team get the luxury of working on the technical nuances and refine their game in order to prepare for State.
“It’s nice to be in the position where we are in control of our own destiny and we are in the driver’s seat in the Northwest,” Pirates’ coach Larry Smith said. “That is the type of confidence we need. We are in position to go finish it and go into State with a real positive, upbeat attitude and make a run at a state championship.”
In Smith’s 30 years as head skipper of the Lady Pirates, he has seen both scenarios. Sometimes Polson qualified for state with ease and other times they had to wait until the last week to qualify. Either way, Smith said there are positives and negatives to both situations headed into a big tournament.
“In the past, we’ve been in situations where we waited until the final week and not knowing whether we were (going to be in the state), and that kind of atmosphere adds to the pressure of the state tournament,” Smith said. “As the No. 1 seed, getting that bye can bite you but usually is beneficial because you get a chance to rest your pitcher, especially when you are pretty much going with one pitcher. I have two or three of them and hopefully they’ll be ready to go by then.”
The Lady Pirates had mixed results this week playing against some of the MHSA Class AA Schools. Smith’s philosophical approach in his preliminary preparation for the state is to make his Lady Pirate’s schedule difficult.
This week the Pirates had an opportunity to play two double A schools in Glacier and Flathead in the back-to-back home contests and the results with the AA schools were mixed.
Polson fell to Glacier 8-5, defeated Flathead 14-3 and then proceeded to win their conference game on the road against Browning 28-0.
“Usually, Double-A is a huge challenge for us and our team likes playing up because they get a chance to showcase their talent and abilities, and how they can play with anyone in the state,” Smith said. “I thought the Glacier game should have been ours though we were very flat throughout the game. Our two pitchers struggled to get their control and feet underneath them to really dig us out of that hole. It took quite a while.”
Despite the loss, Smith took away what he referred to as a “huge positive” moving forward with his team.
“The big positive I take from that game is that we had a chance at the end of the game to either tie or win with the bases loaded,” Smith said. “We really took our frustrations out on Glacier and our team came out really energized and excited about playing the game. Our team just started out fantastic and really exploded on Flathead. That helps when you have a lead off hit and two in-the-park home runs.”
This week, the Lady Pirates will travel to play more elite competition at the Lavern Combo Tournament Friday and Saturday at Butte.
According to Smith, the important experience he wants his players to get out of the Combo tourney is the “tournament atmosphere.”
“I am glad we are going to trip to Butte because it is a tournament atmosphere and it is very important that we get accustomed to playing different teams on a strange field, get in the flow of the tournament and experience the excitement (in a tournament atmosphere),” Smith said.
The Lady Pirates have the luxury other teams don’t heading into the final portion of the regular season schedule. Teams like Columbia Falls and Ronan will be vying for the last spot at State.
Smith praised both of those team’s efforts this season as they both fight it out for the last spot. Both team’s upcoming contests with Polson could dictate who gets to continue playing and who ends their season.
Smith praised the Maidens for their efforts this season.
“They are going to surprise some people and that is not a bad position to be to sneak up on people at the end,” Smith said.
Smith is still working on the small details of getting his team to a State championship-caliber level.
“We’ve been getting better overall and not making a lot of mental mistakes that cost us (in previous games),” Smith said. “In the last loss that we had to Hamilton, we made a lot of mental errors on the bases and had the game in hand. We were able to break down games better and be mentally stronger. I think physically we have the capabilities of playing and stopping anyone. We have great overall team speed and it is pretty important to get our hitters one-through-nine and mainly get key runners on base.”
Polson 28, Browning 0
Polson (6-0, 10-4), Browning (0-4, 0-11)
Polson (15)38 20 – 28 26 1*
Browning ( 0 )00 00 – 0 2 5*
Paige Noyes (7K,2W,3HB) and Kaylanna Desjarlais, (3) Quinn Motichka. Montana Bremner (1K) and Candace StillSmoking. W – Noyes (1-0). L – Bremner.
POLSON – Kaelyn Smith *4-5, Marina Mayorga 2-3, Quinn Motichka 4-5, Laurel Bitterman *4-6, Vanessa Kent 2-2, Josie Caye 1-1, Olivia Perez 1-2, DesJarlais *3-3, Noyes *1-3, Quinones 0-0, Lisa Costilla 1-2, Lexy Orien *2-2, (cr) Cali Cannon.
BROWNING – M.Bremner 0-2, StillSmoking 1-3, Katie RunningWolf 0-2, Aliyah Skunkcap 0-1, Kaylauna Brown 1-2, Arianna Bitsui 0-2, Haley Bullshoe 0-2, Taylee RidesAtTheDoor 0-1, C.Guardipee 0-1.
HR – Kaylanna Desjarlais, Kaelyn Smith. 2B – *Motichka, Caye, Costilla, Desjarlais, Kent, Motichka. RBIs – Smith 3, Mayorga, Motichka 3, Bitterman 2, Caye 2, Perez, DesJarlais 8, Noyes 2, Quinones 2, Costilla, Orien. BB – Smith, Mayorga 3, Motichka, Kent 2, DesJarlais, Quinones 2, Costilla; A.Skunkcap, T.RidesAtTheDoor. HB – Caye 2, Desjarlais, Kent; Bremner, RunningWolf, C Guardipee. SB – Smith 3(30th), *Mayorga 2, *Bitterman. FC – Mayorga, Noyes, Orien; StillSmoking, Bitsui. *ROE – Costilla, DesJarlais.
Asterisk (*) denotes stat variant(s) where data differs among alternative sources:
GC – P21H(Smith 3H, Bitterman 5H, Desjarlais 2H, Noyes 0H; Orien 0H)/B1H (StillSmoking 0H); Data not collaborated by LP stat book : Mayorga 2SB, Bitterman 1SB, Noyes ROE, Orien ROE.
Some RBI credit reconstruction differed between game segment recollections and electronic GC postings.
Polson 14, Flathead 3
Polson (9-4), Flathead (4-12)
Flathead 003 00 – 3 5 2
Polson 833 0x – 14 16 2
Karissa Comer, Maitlynn Betts (1.2) and Kate Smith; Vanessa Kent and Kaylanna DesJarlais. W – Kent (9-4). L – Comer.
KALISPELL FLATHEAD – Riley Chouinard 0-2, Kayla Kallis 1-3, Kaileigh Denna 1-2, Hailey Junk 1-2, Comer 2-3, Haylee Learn 0-2, Allyssa Cadwalader 0-3, Kate Smith 0-2, Kyann Devera 0-2.
POLSON – Kaelyn Smith 4-4, Marina Mayorga 1-4, Quinn Motichka 2-3, Josie Caye 2-3, DesJarlais 2-3, Laurel Bitterman 2-3, Paige Noyes 2-3, Olivia Perez 0-3, Lisa Costilla 1-3, (cr) Lexy Orien.
HR – Smith 2. 3B – Smith 2, Motichka, Bitterman. 2B – Motichka, Caye 2, Bitterman, Noyes 2. RBIs – Junk, Learn, Cadwalader; Smith 3, Mayorga, Caye 3, Bitterman 3, Noyes 3, Costilla. BB – Chouinard, Denna, Junk, Kate Smith. HB – Learn. SB – Smith(28th) Runs – Kallis, Denna, Junk; Kae.Smith 3, Motichka 3, Caye 2, Orien 2, Bitterman 2, Noyes, Costilla. (Th03May18)
Asterisk (*) denotes stat variant(s) where media coverage differs from home stat data: Comer 1ab, Betts 2ab (Comer at-bats mistakenly credited to Betts, who pitched in relief, but did not bat)
Glacier 8, Polson 5
Polson 003 000 2 – 5 6 2*
Glacier 222 200 x – 8 11 1*
Vanessa Kent (2K,6H,2W,2HB), (1.1) Paige Noyes (5H,1HB,1PO,1A), (3) Kent and Kaylanna Desjarlais. Sage Vanterpool and Addie Labrum. WP –Vanterpool. LP – Kent (8-4).
POLSON – Kaelyn Smith 1-4, Marina Mayorga 0-3, Lexy Orien 0-1, Quinn Motichka 2-3, Josie Caye *1-4, Desjarlais 1-4, Laurel Bitterman 0-3, Paige Noyes 1-2, Grace Quinones 0-2, Lisa Costilla 0-2, Olivia Perez *0-1.
GLACIER – Kynzie Mohl 1-3, Labrum 0-2, Sophie Smith 3-3, Alivia Atlee 2-3, Allee Meyer 1-4, Maddie Johnson *1-3, Hallie Nikunen 1-3, Vanterpool 1-3, Meg Hornby 1-3.
HR – Meyer, Vanterpool. 2B – Motichka 2, *Noyes. RBIs – Motichka 2, Desjarlais, Perez 2; S.Smith *2, Atlee, Meyer 2, Johnson, Vanterpool. BB – Motichka, Noyes; Mohl, Atlee. HB – Quinones; Mohl 2, S.Smith. SB – Smith 2(27th); Nikunen. CS – S.Smith, Johnson. ROE – Costilla, *Perez; *Johnson. FC – K.Smith, Caye. (Tu01May18)
Asterisk (*) denotes stat variant(s) where media coverage differs from visitor stat data: KG: P5H (Caye 0H, Perez 1H),0E/G12H(Johnson 2H, Smith 3rbi),2E