Polson Lady Pirates seek sustained success on diamond

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THE 2019 Polson Lady Pirates will have depth at multiple positions this season. Pictured during their first foray outdoors as they participate in their inaugural informal scrimmage are sophomore Kobbey Smith at third, sophomore Josie Caye at shortstop and freshman Kallie Finkbeiner in centerfield. The scoreboard shows seven state A championships, and this year’s squad would like to make it eight. Polson hosts the state A tournament this postseason. (Photo courtesy of Shelley Smith)

The 2018 rendition of the Polson Lady Pirates (20-6) wrapped up their regular schedule 18-4 that included a 10-0 conference sweep to secure the Northwest division top seed at the State A tournament held in Frenchtown. After a first-round bye, the Lady Pirates outdueled tournament host Frenchtown (2SW) 10-7, fell to eventual champion Belgrade (1C) 8-1 in the championship semifinal, tethered the Lady Golden Eagles of Lewistown (3C) 7-1 in consolation before stumbling against host Frenchtown 9-8 in the loser -akes fourth-place match.

Where Polson struggled the most last season was against top-tier talent such as conference crown champions Hamilton (SWA), Belgrade (Central A) and the Broncs bombers from Frenchtown (SWA), who accounted for five of the half-dozen losses.

2018 record breakdown: NWA (10-0), Frenchtown Invite (1-1), Butte Invite (4-0), Western AA (1-1), misc. nonconference (2-2), state A (2-2).

Versus 2018 state A placers: 3rd-place Frenchtown (5-0, 10-7, 8-9), 2nd-place Hamilton (1-20, 4-6), 1st-place Belgrade (2-10, 1-8)

Adaptations Impact Lady Pirate Roster

The Lady Pirates graduated a quintet that encompass all-state shortstop Kaelyn Smith along with a quartet of all-conference accentuated starters that include (1st-tm) pitcher Vanessa Kent (18-6), (2nd-tm) infielder Quinn Motichka, (2nd-tm) outfielder Laurel Bitterman and (2nd-tm) utility Marina Mayorga (cf career stats at base of article). Another player opted to pursue participation in another sport this season, which brings roster vacancies to a half dozen. Motichka has extended her softball career at the collegiate level playing for Dakota State, while Smith is taking an indefinite leave of absence for health reasons.

Graduation and attrition accounted for 191 hits last season that included more than five dozen for extra bases, 114 RBIs and 164 runs. As a consequence, Polson will be looking for hitters to fill shoes created by these vacancies. The Lady Pirates will also be in need to addressing pitching with the departure of their senior ace who accounted for the lion’s share of work on the mound last season.

2019 Polson Lady Pirate player profiles

Seasoned Seniors:

Anchoring the pitching battery behind the plate is all-state (a-c 1st-tm) catcher Kaylanna DesJarlais, who was tied for second leading dispenser of dingers among the lineup. Returning to the mound is hurler Lauren Vergeront (2016: 2-2, 9sv) after a hiatus recovering from an injury. Vergeront appeared in 17 games her freshman season, mostly in relief, but was also the pitcher of record in a quartet of contests. She averages better than a strikeout per inning. Vergeront pitched some summer season games with the 16U Bitterroot Sparks-Bessette.

All-conference (2nd-tm) infielder Paige Noyes brings bat as well as glove that lend aid to the penchant of Pirates. Noyes has been averaging hits for extra bases within the double-digit range over the past pair of seasons.

Outfielder/infielder Lisa Costilla rounds out the elders among the squad. The batting proficiency of Costilla has been on a steady incline the past pair of seasons to the extent that she has now delved into double digits for cumulative extra base hits that include her first ever in the history of her life, straight away center, out-of-the-park home run last summer.

K.DesJ Smr2018USA – 34ab: 18H, (4)2B, 9RBI, .529avg, 11R, 3SB, 1SF, 4BB

K.DesJ Spr2018MHSA – 81ab: 38H, 7(2B), 1(3B), 5HR, 22RBI, .469avg, 7R

L.Verg Spr2016MHSAv: 16ab, 6H, 1(2B), 3RBI, .400avg, 3R

L.Verg Spr2016MHSAjv 9H, 8RBI, .360AVG, 8R

P.Noyes Smr2018USA – 52ab: 17H, (7)2B, 17RBI, .327avg, 11R, 1SH, 2BB

P.Noyes Spr2018 – 71ab: 31H,(12)2B, (2)3B, 23RBI, .437avg, 21R, 1SB, 1SH, 8BB

L.Cost Smr2018USA – 43ab: 13H, (2)2B, 1HR, 6RBI, .302avg, 12R, 4SB, 4BB, 3SH

L.Cost Spr2018MHSA – 53ab: 14H, (5)2B, 7RBI, .264avg, 15R, 1SH, 2BB

Juggernaut Juniors:

Cali Cannon has the quintessential surname for someone with a gun for an arm and who can blast a shot with the bat. An all-state golfer, Cannon knows how to tee off on a ball and aims to adapt her swing so she can drive the ball across the fairway of a softball field.

Returning outfielder Grace Quinones can hold her own coming from a family of wrestlers, has a vise for a grip and knowns how to work herself out of a jam.

C.Cannon Spr2018LPjv – 9ab: 3H, (1)2B, 2RBI, .333avg, 3R(LPv:12R)

C.Cannon Spr2017LPjv – 16gms, 53ab: 26H, (4)2B, (1)3B, .491AVG {CC}

G.Q Smr2018USA – 46ab: 19H, (5)2B, (2)3B, 17RBI, .413avg, 19R, 4SB, 2SH, 6BB

G.Q Spr2018MHSA – 40ab: 12H, (4)2B, 1HR, 9RBI, .300avg, 20R, 7SB, 1SF, 8BB

G.Q Spr2018LPjv – 55ab: 34H, (6)2B, (2)3B, 7HR, 19RBI, .618avg, 32R

Sensational Sophomores:

Shoring up the infield defense is all-conference (hm) Josie Caye, but she also packs plenty of punch at the plate as well. Caye is the leading batter among returnees for generating extra-base hits. Caye has accrued quite a parade of credentials that extend well beyond those of conciliatory honorable mention variety (cf. below).

Outfielder Lexy Orien embodies many of the integral ingredients that make for a superb softball player: wheels under her chassis, substantial range with a glove, wields a wicked wand at the plate and packs a bit of tiger in the tank. When such a blend reaches an optimal ratio, opponents may want to watch out. Orien led the summer squad in RBI productivity with two dozen as well as tied for team lead in extra base hits.

Other sophomore contributors who are anticipated to lend multiple innings to the mix include hurlers Kobbey Smith and Ellie Thiel, infielder SaVanna Carpentier and utility Mossy Kauley.

J.Caye Spr2018MHSA – 92ab: 45H, (13)2B, 5HR, 30RBI, .489avg, 36R, 7SB, 4HB, 3BB

J.Caye Smr2017 GCJL14U – 12gms,[<46]ab: 22H, (*5)2B, 18RBI, [>.478AVG], 1SF

{JC} 2018 PGF 16U Northwest Bullets-Duman softball roster, USA Preps Beitia Board 2021 Top Prospect, UM Lady Griz softball day camper MVP, 2017 Junior League Softball West Regional (JLSBWR) all-tournament, 2017 JLSB 14U West Region champion, 2017 Garden City JLSB MT state champions, 2017 ASA 14U MT Avs-Weisgram JO runnerup 2nd place, 2015 ASA 12U MT Avs-Tipps State JO 2nd place, 2014 ASA 10U NW Regional champion Lil Lakers, 2014 State 10U JO 2nd place.

L.Orien Smr2018USA – 52ab: 20H,(8)2B,(1)3B, 3HR, 24RBI, .385avg, 19R, 4SB, 1SH, 2BB

L.Orien Spr2018MHSA – 27ab: 14H, (4)2B, (2)3B, 2HR, 10RBI, .519avg, 17R, 2SB

L.Orien Spr2018LPjv – 54ab: 27H, (6)2B, 2HR, 15RBI, .500avg, 22R

Kob.Smith Spr2018LPjv – 44ab: 18H, (6)2B, (1)3B, 9RBI, .409avg, 20R

E.Thiel Spr2018LPjv – 23ab: 9H, (1)2B, 3RBI, .391avg, 9R

S.Carpentier Spr2018LPjv – 40ab: 22H, (7)2B, (2)3B, 2HR, 12RBI, .550avg, 23R

M.Kauley Spr2018LPjv – 48ab: 19H, (5)2B, 8RBI, .396avg, 17R

Fabulous Frosh:

The Lady Pirates will benefit from an influx of substantially seasoned freshman. Those liable to see innings at early junctures of the schedule include pitcher Katelyn Druyvestein and catcher Kallie Finkbeiner (GSC a-c hm gk). Others may be called upon to make contributions as the season progresses. Many among the frosh influx intermixed with some sophs were part of the 2014 ASA 10U Northwest Regional champion Lil Lakers squad who have since done substantial touring of tournaments over the past several seasons.

K.Druyv Smr2018USA14U – 64ab: 29H, (4)2B, 16RBI, .453avg, 28R, 11BB*

Spr2018MVSA TSDEclipse14U (23-0) K.Druyv (53IP: 99K,13W)17gms

Smr2018USA Lakers14U (21-2) K.Druyv (50IP: 52K,10W)14gms

K.Finkb Smr2018USA14U – 60ab: 41H, (14)2B, (1)3B, 4HR, 44RBI, .683avg, 30R*

Asterisk (*) denotes some +/- variation may apply.

Up-and-Comers

An influx of fresh talent infuses the Polson softball program. Up-and-comers who embody the future with an eye on the present include junior speedster Shaeley Brown, sophomores Liz Scabbyrobe along with Beth Hewankorn and a half-dozen freshman who include Anna Vert, Aubrey Marshall, Ashlynn Depoe, Turquoise Pierre, Giana Fyant and Reegan Stinger. At such an early juncture of the schedule, roster deployments remain somewhat in a state of flux about who will be making what contributions where. The formula is pretty straight forward. Those who excel during windows of opportunity tend to find that additional opportunities gravitate their way.

Season Outlook & Prognosis

First-year head coach Jami Hanson takes over the helm of the Lady Pirate softball program with the retirement of 31-year veteran coach Larry Smith (head: 1988-2018, asst: 1987), aided by ninth-year assistant coach Don Toth, second-year assistant coach Juan Perez and volunteer assistant coach Mariah Newell. Smith was the architect behind seven state A titles (B2B2001-02, 2004, 2007, 3-Peat2010-12), 28 winning seasons, 14 finishes among the 20s that include a dozen since Y2K, along with multiple season records that finished among the high teens. A tally that spans his multi-decade career sums up to an eyebrow raising 610-235 cumulative softball record. For the math minded, that’s 845 games of spring MHSA softball for a .722 average win percentage, which does not begin to take into account summer ASA/USA investments, which would in all likelihood push his cumulative career win tally well beyond the millennial (1,000) mark.

Smith was only the second coach in the history of the Lady Pirate program, which means Hanson will be just its third since 1986. While the galoshes Smith leaves behind are sizeable, Hanson is no novice when it comes to matters that entail developing proficiency with glove and bat. He spent 15 seasons (1996, 2003-16) coaching the District 4 Legion A Mission Valley Mariners, guiding its baseball team to their first state title (2007: 61-10) and then their first Northwest Regional title (2012: 56-8). Interspersed among those are multiple district titles that led to multiple trips to the state stage. A snippet of Hanson’s philosophical approach can be extrapolated from a rubric by which his inaugural season Lady Pirates will operate, “take what is given you, earn what isn’t.”

What can softball fans anticipate following this turn of events? Change and continuity. The Lady Pirates may take on a different look and feel, but the coaching staff will continue to instill into the program a quality level of competitiveness that is a hallmark of Polson prep softball.

Like many a team at this juncture of the schedule, optimism remains high in terms of attaining lofty goals: qualifying for state and then hauling home some hardware. A preferential penchant urging along these Pirates includes setting sail among the swells of softball seas in a quest for the treasure of a conference crown, followed by a preference for acquiring figurative fortunes of either a gold, silver or bronze variety. This season, Polson will play host to the state A tournament, which means they would like to ensure they are invited to their own party and not relegated to the sidelines to watch while others revel.

To optimize the quest of these Pirates will require that they address two key areas: hitting and pitching. Attrition from graduation or migration leaves a vacuum of making up for just under 200 hits last season that included five dozen for extra bases, generating more than a century worth of RBIs and more than 150 runs. Consequently, Polson will be looking for hitters to fill shoes created by these vacancies. Fortunately, the cupboard is far from bare as several have been smacking the ball with authority. Cultivation of consistency and timely hitting at strategic junctures will be key, aspects which periodically faltered last season against upper tier opponents.

The other key aspect that the Lady Pirates will seek to replace will be pitching as the lions share of decisions from the mound have departed. Fortunately, the cupboard is not only hardly bare, but it seems to be chocked full to the brim for Polson. The most seasoned among hurlers throwing from the circle will be the return of Lauren Vergeront, who is now mended from what ailed her. Sophomores Kobbey Smith and Ellie Thiel pitched junior varsity games last season and saw either some spring circle or summer mound assignments at the varsity level. But what moves the Lady Pirates to the brink of riches beyond avarice is an influx of freshman arms in Katelyn Druyvestein, Ashlyn Depoe, Turquoise Pierre and Gianna Fyant. Each are at different stages of the scale of mastery, but there are enough different options that one could throw a different pitcher each separate inning of a regulation game. Add to that mix senior Paige Noyes (2018: 2-0) and junior Grace Quinones, who have both thrown innings in the past, and the Lady Pirates could press into action a different arm for each inning of a game that extended into extras. A rare luxury for any team, many of which are hard pressed to find a player who can throw hard and find the strike zone.

The Northwestern A Conference (NWA) has undergone another slight reconfiguration since last season. The powerhouse Lady Broncs of Frenchtown had already shifted back to the Southwestern Conference fold two seasons ago and the former Central A Browning Lady Indians are in their second season as part of the NWA ranks. Insufficent numbers have now force Whitefish to forego fielding a team this season, which it is hoped will be a temporary setback that will be short lived.

The Lady Pirates held their first informal scrimmage on Monday, April 1, which featured sound pitching, superb batting and crisp glovework. Some of the highlights included RBI singles by Kaylanna DesJarlais along with Paige Noyes; doubles by Noyes, Lisa Costilla and Gianna Fyant and RBI triples by Lexy Orien and Smith.

Polson is slated to inaugurate its season on Saturday, April 6, at Corvallis instead of hosting Whitefish. Thereafter, the Lady Pirates are slated to host Hamilton for their home opener on Tuesday, April 9, contingent upon playable field conditions and weather.

Graduate accrued athletic accolades

Kaelyn Smith (SB 3x a-s, 4x a-c: 1st-tm 2018-16, 2nd-tm 2015; VB: a-c hm 2017; GBB a-c hm 2017-18); reset school career stolen base record (2015-18: 7+41+50+54 = 152SB) previously held by Strohm Fouty (2002-05: 39+37+35+37=148SB); thrice reset single season school stolen base record (41,50,54).

Quinn Motichka (SB: 2x a-c: 2nd-tm; XC: a-c NWA 2014)

Laurel Bitterman (SB: 2x a-s 2018-17, 3x a-c: 2nd-tm 2019, 1st-tm 2018-17)

Vanessa Kent (SB: a-c 1st-tm)

Marina Mayorga (SB: a-c 2nd-tm; GSC: a-s, 3x a-c: 1st-tm 2017, 2nd-tm 2016-15, MVP: teamLP 2017, NW Senior Showcase)

Kaelyn Smith MHSAcareer4yr (2018-15):

355ab, 177H, 28(2B), 15(3B), 8HR (=51xbh), 78RBI, .499avg, 150R, 152SB

K.Smith Spr2018MHSA – 92ab, 54H, 11(2B), 6(3B), 7HR, 28RBI, 46R, 13BB, 2HB, 2SF, 54SB

Laurel Bitterman career 3yr+ (2018-15):

291ab, 121H, 10(2B), 6(3B), 1HR, 64RBI, 129R, 67SB

L.Bitt Spr2018MHSA – 92ab, 39H, 2(2B), 4(3B), 21RBI, 34R, 17SB

Quinn Motichka career 3yr (2018-16):

260ab, 105H, 34(2B), 2(3B), 3HR, 82RBI, 77R, 27SB, 22BB

Q.Motichka Spr2018MHSA – 99ab, 41H, 12(2B), 2(3B), 3HR, 32RBI, 33R, 5BB, 1HB, 10SB

Vanessa Kent career 3yr+ (2018-15):

144ab, 45H, 6(2B), 33RBI, .313avg, career 19-6, 3sv

V.Kent Spr2018MHSA NWA w/P – 15ab, 11H, 5(2B), 5RBI, .733avg, 14R (W18-6L, 92K)

V.Kent Spr2017MHSA BC w/MAC– 85ab, 23H, 1(2B), 22RBI, 4IP

Marina Mayorga cumulative combo:

134ab, 45H, 6(2B), 1(3B), 25RBI, .336avg, 31R, 9SB

M.Mayorga spr2018MHSA– 80ab, 31H, 4(2B), 1(3B), 13RBI, .388avg, 25R, 6SB

M.Mayorga smr2017USA – 54ab: 14H, (2)2B, 12RBI, .259AVG, 3SB, 6R

O.Perez spr2018MHSA – 47ab, 15H, (4)2B, 15RBI, .319avg, 13R

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