Area softball teams aim to make their mark at Western Nationals

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The recently configured 2019 Montana Mustangs softball squad briefly pose for a photo-op from their practice before they hoof it over to Spokane to compete in the 16U USA Western A Nationals. Left to right, back row: coach Tim Finkbeiner, (#12) Liev Smith (Charlo), (#13) Mossy Kauley (Polson), (#99) Lexy Orien (Polson), (#2) Macao Jackson (Ronan), (#4) Kobbey Smith (Polson), coach Lyle Smith. Front row: (#10) Kallie Finkbeiner (Polson), (#00) Anna Vert (Polson), (#22) Katelyne Druyvestein (Polson), (#21) Ashlynn Nixon (Corvallis), (#47) Azia Umphrey (St. Ignatius). (photo courtesy of Christa Umphrey, Forward Photography)

As summer softball enters the twilight phase of its season, the Mission Valley will be sending a pair of teams to the Western A Nationals this week in Spokane to size up their game against some of the best around the Northwest.

In the 14U age division, the Polson-based, Moses Pierre/Rodney DePoe/Kim Kendall-coached Lakers will seek to make a deeper foray into the bracket this time around than they did at USA State, where they were two games away from advancing into the medal rounds.

In the 16U age division, the Northwest Montana-based, Lyle Smith/Tim Finkbeiner-coached Montana Mustangs will seek to match the wickedness of their wands and the athleticism of their arms against other teams in attendance within their age group.

The roster of the 14U Lakers remains in continuity with their previous configuration over the course of the summer, but the 16U MT Mustangs are a reconfigured blend of the Northwestern portion of the state with roster representation from five different communities that include Polson, Ronan, Charlo, St. Ignatius and the Bitterroot Valley.

The Mustang roster could be described as being accentuated with some alphabetic aptitude. The infusion of a quartet of Ks (Kallie, Katelyne, Kobbey, Kauley) will ensure the team is ready to strike with their bats as well as notch some strikeouts on behalf of their hurlers. Their trio of As (Anna, Ashlynn, Azia) will aid the team in maintaining its focus on making sure they continually bring their A game. Much like a prominent characteristic typically attributed to a certain candy with an outer shell coating, the M&Ms among the Mustangs (Macao, Mossy) wont be prone to melt under the heat of competition. The lacing of Ls (Liev, Lexy) will likely encompass the figurative H-E double hash mark treatment their bats intend to give opposition pitchers, but will also revolve around their intent to hang other Ls (losses) upon the competition.

Jackson, Nixon and Umphrey are coming off a 2019 USA MT Junior Olympic Fastpitch 16U State runnerup finish with the Bitterroot-based, Chris Newman-coached Sparks. Jackson also holds state championship credentials stemming from being part of the roster of the Missoula-based, Joel Spry-coached 2016 ASA 12U state champion MT Avalanche. Smith played up with the 18U Mission Valley Insanity, whose best finish over the course of the summer was the silver bracket championship at the end of regular season Emeralds SMASH Tournament in Kalispell. The half dozen Polson players are coming off a State A second place finish in spring softball. Half among those were part of the 2014 ASA NW Regional champion 10U Lil Lakers who won the title by prevailing in the second championship over the Spokane Stealth. So facing stiff competition is nothing new to this crew.

One mode of comparison would be to draw an analogy between baking and these two area teams headed to the Western Nationals. Both culinary artistry and roster configurations share high grade ingredients in common. Once one blends superior ingredients together in an optimal ratio, followed by the introduction of heat along with pressure, what emerges holds potential to be downright delectable.

The tournament format is slated to include a pair of pool play games for seeding purposes, followed by a double elimination format.

These players help continued a rich tradition of Polson players, who are are helping solidify the growing reputation of how Western Montana softball is perceived by the collegiate level.

The teams continue to improve on a yearly basis as youth sports continue to evolve into one of the biggest portion of the sports industry.

Below are names of rosters of players who partcipated in the respective regional softball tournament.

2019 Girls 14U & 16U A Fastpitch Western National Championships

Merkel Softball Complex, Spokane, WA

Tuesday-Sunday, July 23-28

16U MT MUSTANGS roster: (22) Katelyne Druyvestein (Polson), (47) Azia Umphrey (St.Ignatius), (10) Kallie Finkbeiner (Polson), (12) Liev Smith (Charlo), (13) Mossy Kauley (Polson), (99) Lexy Orien (Polson), (2) Macao Jackson (Ronan), (4) Kobbey Smith (Polson), (21) Ashlynn Nixon (Corvallis), (00) Anna Vert (Polson).

accrued athletic accolades:

Ashlynn Nixon (SB SWA 2x a-s, 2x a-c 1st-tm), Azia Umphrey (SB BC a-s, 2x 1st-tm), Macao Jackson (SB NWA a-s, a-c 1st-tm), Katelyne Druyvestein (SB a-c 2nd-tm), Kallie Finkbeiner (SB a-c hm, GSC a-c hm), Kobbey Smith (SB a-c hm), Liev Smith (GBB 14C a-c 2nd-tm).

14U LAKERS roster: Nikki Kendall, Mckenna Hanson, Alexis Johnson, Turquoise Pierre, Ashlyn DePoe, Bella Paul, Julia Barnard, Carli Maley, Caitlyn Ward, Tyneesha Brown, Ansley Nordberg, Trinity Towne, Reegan Stinger.

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