2019 softball preview

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alabamagrizzly
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2019 softball preview

Post by alabamagrizzly » Thu Jan 24, 2019 1:08 pm

2019 season preview
Well it’s that time of year again and I for one am ready and excited to get this season started in two very short weeks. Now believe it or not, these ARE the Montana Grizzlies despite all the new faces. Nearly half the girls on the roster are new to the program with only nine returning players after graduating a mind boggling 11 girls last year. That’s 55% of last years roster gone with 6 of the 8 position players and the primary DH all gone. The major bright spot is though that the pitchers responsible for 95% of the innings thrown last year are all back and hopefully healthy. The other good news is three of the most dominant pitchers in the history of the Big Sky all graduated last year and the pitching experience around the league is very thin. Two time con pitcher of the year Celina Mathias of Sac St and Kirtlyn Bohling of WSU, the winningest pitcher in BSC history will both be gone leaving the top two programs looking for a new ace. Also Kaylin VanDomelen of UND, who’s whole team isn’t returning to the Big Sky graduates too along with ISU’s Ashlyn Ames. That should take a little pressure of our offense knowing they won’t have to face those dominant pitchers anymore. Hopefully that will help our magic number of 3 from last year, 3 runs allowed to the opposition that is. It was imperative that we held them to 3 because our offense couldn’t score. If we held them to 3 or less, we were 24-10 which should be acceptable. It’s the 1-20 record when allowing more then 3 that was disastrous. Our lack of offense was our downfall. Hopefully that will improve with the fresh faces entering the line up and the lack of experienced opposing pitchers around the league.

2018 season recap
I’ll try not to dredge up the past too much but it wasn’t good, offensively anyway. Pitching and defense were their usual near league leading selves but the O may have been its worst since year 1, maybe even worse. With the high hopes that this Sr laden team had of repeating as con champs, barely squeaking into the playoffs as a 5 seed would be considered a letdown. Granted our ace pitcher was out through most of the con schedule, it was the bats that repeatedly failed us, and some might say it was the coaching. I’m sure Coach Mel would be the 1st to tell you that. We have an open assistant position though and an experienced hitting coach would be ideal here, or a perfect time for Delene Colburn to start her coaching career.

Here’s a link to last years review
viewtopic.php?t=80068
and stats.
https://stats.gogriz.com/sports/w-softb ... h=softball

Player departures
This section will be muuuuch bigger then normal, obviously. We all knew this day was coming. Over four years ago when these girls signed up to play for the Griz, the mass exodus was all part of the plan. There’s no question which one of these girls left the biggest stamp on the team and league but all these girls played a vital part in the rapid building of this title contending team.

Delene Colburn/SS.
Can somebody remind me who this is again. I seen her name on the roster but I’m having a tuff time remembering who she is. Ok, that’s a bad joke. Seriously, Delene may not just be a cornerstone for the Griz softball team. She may be the whole foundation. She certainly is in the record books. She owns four career and single season conference marks plus every team record except stolen bases, triples, and batting average. She graduated probably the best SS in the history of the Big Sky with UNC’s Erika Dick the only other possibly in contention. Players like her are so far in between that, in my opinion, there is only one in the league right now in Sac St’s Suzy Brookshire. It is unfortunate to see her go but like all athletes, they must move on eventually. The firmest if salutes to you Delene, you were the best.

Ashlyn Lyons/1B.
The 2nd of the four four-year starters that are leaving the program, Ashlyn was a consistent force at 1B for the Griz. A four time con selection(three HM, one 2nd team), she was a steady .300 hitter her first three years until raising her game her Sr year batting .340 while setting career highs in doubles(12), homers(7), and RBI(32). Her .988% career fielding percentage should place her pretty high in the all time con rankings as well. Oh, she’s also the only Griz to have a chance to play professionally after being drafted by a new start up league. Hope it works out for you Ashlyn.

Gabby Martinez/2B.
By far the smallest girl to ever wear a Griz uni but she still had a big impact. She locked 2B down for four years with a .971 career fielding percentage while earning two league HM nods. Starting 210 of Montana’s 220 games over the last four years, she was a career .250 hitter and the Griz’s leader in stolen bases. Her speed and ability to put the ball in play from the bottom of the line up with Anne Marie Petrino were a big asset several times this year when the top of the lineup wasn’t finding hits. You will be missed Gabby.

MaKenna McGill/CF.
The last of the four year starters, MaKenna had CF locked down until a knee injury nearly ended her career mid way through her Jr season. After going all the way into spring of her Sr year, that season was still in question but after getting medically cleared just before the season began, she was able to start every game for the Griz in center. Her .300+ BA and 36 career stolen bases will be missed but her 4 errors(3 her Fr year) in 186 games started in CF will be hard pressed to match. MaKenna, you were a defensive gem in center.

Madison Saacke/C.
A three year starter between catching and DH duties. One of the better defensive catchers the last two years, she was a 3 time HM league selection. Also one of the more potent bats, although she never came close to matching her .355 BA her So year as the DH. Still a .260+ career average is no slouch. Madison, for all you’ve done for the Griz the last four years we thank you. Thank you also for your last gift of the transfer Cami Sellers due to her connection to you and your family.

Alex Wardlow/RF.
A two year starter at all three outfield positions, Wardlow filled in well when needed. She didn’t have great offensive numbers but her defense was pretty decent and she did manage some timely hits. Good luck to you Alex in your post softball life.

Tori Lettus/DH/IF.
Tori has been a key utility player for the Griz through her four years playing five different positions plus DH including starting the first half of last year at 3B. She may go down as Montana’s strike out queen but she was still a main building block to the Griz program.

Haley Young/P.
She transferred here in ‘16 to become the last member of the class of ‘18 to join. Although her innings were limited due to the quality of pitchers on our staff, I for one will always remember fondly her emotional rendition of the Star Spangled Banner on Sr Day for these Girls last home game of the careers.

Dani Walker C/Mackenzie Phillips OF/Katie Jo Waletzko OF-bench platoon.
Three die hard girls who spent their entire four year careers coming of the bench for pinch hit, pinch run, or a defensive replacement whenever one was needed. Phillips and Walker did see some starts early in the first two years but as new recruits joined, their playing time went down. They had 23 starts this year, 17 of those coming from Walker. These girls commitment to the program should be honored to show appreciation of a true role player.

Projected starters for 2019
First base
So Cami Sellers may be the only lock in all the vacated positions on the field. Last year as a Fr, she started 52 games at first for Boston College, the 2nd place team in the ACC behind only National Champion Florida St. Granted she only batted .218 with 32 k’s in 147 at bats, both primary concerns here, but that was as a Fr facing upper level pitching. “Dropping down” into the Big Sky should help her raise her game. Her fielding will fit in just fine with a .973% with over 330 attempts last year. Missoula Big Sky grad Morgan Johnson played some here in the fall also and may split time between first and DH.

Second base
So Lexi Knauss is currently the most experienced at 2B for the Griz playing all of two games last year while committing 0 errors in four attempts. Not exactly got the position locked up yet. Both incoming Fr Kylie Becker and Kaelyn Smith have solid middle infielder experience but they may also be competing for the open SS position. Knauss has yet to find her stroke collegiately and recently took a year off of live game fielding while behind Martinez and Colburn. Both the Fr are high average and speed, limited power with good gloves in high school so which ever one transitions to the college level faster, will win one of the starting jobs.

Third base
Jr Ava Dolan transferred in from NC Central to possibly play 3rd but with the last roster update, she is no longer listed. This will most likely force So Jessica McAlister to stay at 3rd, despite catcher being her natural and position of choice. McAlister’s .958% as a Fr at the hot corner was one of the best in the league so we know she’s not just filling in, she can play. Incoming Fr MaKenna Tjaden who had an amazing fall, Maygen McGrath, Brooklyn Weisgram, and Reily Williams all have corner infield experience in high school also but no telling which will be ready and none of them played 3rd last year.

Shortstop
My guess is Fr Kylie Becker will take the lead on this but fellow Fr Maygen McGrath got a good look in fall and showed a lot of promise. Becker hit nearly .500 her Sr year of high school and as a four year starter at SS for her Las Vegas school, she hit .380 in over a 100 starts. She might lack in power but makes up for it in speed. Coach Mel says she’s a line drive gap hitter with about 1/3 of her hits going for 2 or 3 bases and nearly 60 steals in her career. Like I said earlier, and a theme you will see repeated, this position is up for grabs though. Kaelyn Smith of Polsen will be in consideration also.

Left field
Jr Anne Marie Petrino is the other of the only two position starters returning and should have LF locked down. Her career bat of .231 could use some work, especially for a slap hitter. She has decent speed though and is still maturing. Fr MaKenna Tjaden, Kaelyn Smith, and Brooklyn Weisgram all have OF experience too and one of them should be taking over RF, but the other two will definitely want to challenge for a starting roll. Of course, this is all depending Petrino doesn’t slide over to center, which I’m guessing she won’t.

Centerfield
Jr Kylie Hayton is my guess at center. It was her position of choice in high school and she certainly has the speed for it. Hopefully she has the glove. She’s committed one error in 32 fielding attempts, most of which were in RF last year. Her bat, like Petrino, is what needs to step up. She currently owns a .213 career average. Not sure if any of the Fr OFers can play center but if they can, they’ll be in the mix too.

Right field
Fr Brooklyn Weisgram is my pick to get RF but the position is wide open. Fr Katie Pippel is a wild card that didn’t arrive tell this spring. She brings a high average, lots of pop, and decent speed to the plate. Kaelyn Smith and MaKenna Tjaden have all shown to be high average hitters with great speed who also may be in the mix.

Catcher
So Jessica McAlister’s position of preference and it’s the position she played for the two time New Mexico State champs and at one point, MaxPreps #10 ranked team in the country. I’m sure though if she had her say, she’d play any position that benefits the team the most. Much of where Coach will choose to play her depends largely on the development of the two Fr with experience catching. Reily Williams and MaKenna Tjaden both have experience but Williams is probably the most polished of the two. She’s an exceptional game manager with a very high softball IQ. Her average is decent with plus power potential. Tjaden is a high average hitter but limited in power. She is also extremely versatile in the field and can play anywhere and that may keep her in more of a roll of utility where she can help rest anyone in the game. Jr Morgan Johnson has been sitting for two years for her chance to play but her bat has been a long way away from the potential she had coming out of high school. A .115% hitter in 61 at bats, she really must blossom this year.

Designated Player
Like usual, this will be by committee and is pretty much only used as a designated hitter. Maddy Stensby could see an increased presence here as the only Sr to possibly see time in the batters box this year. Morgan Johnson or any of the Fr that can step up that didn’t earn a starting spot will see time here too. The concern here is to not have a girl just filling the slot that isn’t productive. We haven’t had a steady DH since Madison Saacke hit .355% in ‘16 from the DH slot. Last years DH’s(and there were many) batted .144 which is not good to say the least. Stensby led the way collecting 4 hits in 20 at bats for a .200 average.

The Reservers
This will be an odd year, due to the high turnover, where there won’t be any reserves really tell the start of the season. Coach Mel will probably use the the non-con schedule to solidify her starting lineup but everyone pretty much has a chance to start this year.

The Pitchers
Michaela Hood Jr

A ruff So campaign helped bring Michaela back to earth after her record setting Fr year. Basically put on the shelf early in the con schedule, her numbers took a plunge. Like most on this team though, I’m sure she’s concerned more with the team winning then her numbers and her getting healthy will greatly improve those winning opportunities, as long as the bats pick up. Her injury status was never made public so the extent of her health and if she’ll return to her Fr dominance are all still unknowns except to her and the staff but if her dominance in fall was any indication, she’ll be fine.
Colleen Driscoll Sr
The best #2 pitcher in the con was forced into the #1 slot and showed no sign of wilting under the pressure. Colleen dominates through control and is one of the best with walks/7 innings and WHIP. She also doubled her k production last year rising from about 0.4/inning to about 0.8/inning. Obviously we’d want a healthy Micheala as our #1 but if Colleen gets the call, she will rise to the occasion.
Maddy Stensby Sr
If Colleen is the best #2 then Stensby is by far the best #3, which most schools don’t have a #3. She’d be the starter on atleast a couple staffs in the BSC. Her era did fall a bit but it was still good for 12th in the con. With her and Colleen being the only Sr’s, I’d expect them to see an increased roll but Michaela’s health and Achenbach’s maturity will dictate that too. Atleast she should see more AB’s from the DH position.
Tristin Achenbach So
She will be a star in this league...someday. She had the highest k rate of any of Montana’s pitchers at 0.83 per inning. Only two pitchers had a higher rate in the con last year and they represented the last three con pitcher of the year award winners and both have now graduated. Now, with Michaela and the two Sr’s on the staff, she might not reach stardom this year, but then again, she might. Let’s just say her future is bright.

Incoming freshmen/transfers
Eight, maybe nine new Griz joining the team to replace the 11 that left. Well some can’t be “replaced” but hopefully these new comers will find ways to leave their own mark. Some of them we need sooner then others. One Jr maybe, one So, and seven Fr are joining the nine returning girls. Here’s a brief summary of where they came from.
Ava Dolan Jr 3B
North Carolina Central

Ava was going to be a big pick up for us this year but currently her status is in question. After some social media stalking, she appears to have a severe medical issue in her family. Not sure if she’s taking the year off or completely done with softball but currently she is not listed on the roster. A great player on an awful team last year, her BA, RBI, and HR totals led the MEAC and set school records. A high school teammate of Michaela, she decided to join the Griz based off Michaela’s recommendation. Hopefully, prayers and medicine will heal what’s going on and she can resume life as normal.
Cami Sellers So 1B
Boston College

A So transfer from ACC power Boston College, she should elevate her performance from last year where she started 52 games at 1B for the Eagles. A left handed power hitter, she needs to work on her .218 BA and 32 k’s but those numbers should improve.
Kaelyn Smith Fr SS/IF/OF
Polsen High, Mt

The starting SS for Polsen who earned a #1NW region seed going into the state tourney. She’s a high average speedy hitter who I think will compete for both middle infield positions or RF. She lacks power but a high average will still be a welcome addition to this team.
Brooklyn Weisgram Fr OF/CIF
Missoula Sentinel, Mt

An outfielder with some corner infield experience, she’s also a local kid which is really cool. While helping her team to a 2nd place finish at state, she brings plus average and some power, which hopefully her bat will add some pop to our “low octane” offense. Look for her to try and earn the RF gig.
Kylie Becker Fr SS/MIF
Foothill, Las Vegas, Nv

Maybe the gem of the class, she’s a four year starter at SS for her high school team. She’s also a former club teammate of Michaela who is quickly becoming one of our best recruiters. Her bat which hits for a very high average as a line drive gap hitter and the speed she brings to the base paths will definitely be a welcome addition but it’s her fieldwork that may be the most rewarding. She played years of baseball growing up and has great hands and arm strength which should make her all but a lock to takeover where Delene left off.
Maygen McGrath Fr LSIF/P
South Salem High, Or

Out of Oregon, Maygen is a highly decorated left side infielder with some pitching experience which most likely won’t be called on at Montana. Her glove and arm from the SS/3B side is why she was recruited along with the pop she brings with her bat. Look for her to challenge for SS also.
MaKenna Tjaden Fr C/CIF/OF
Murrieta Valley, Ca

A catcher and corner infielder with OF experience also, shes a complete utility player. A high average hitter with limited power and excellent speed, she can really hit well.
Reily Williams Fr C/CIF
Lake City, Coeur d’Alene, Id

Possibly the other gem in this class and most likely the starting catcher if Coach Mel doesn’t move McAlister back there. An extremely high softball IQ and loves to manage the game. With a decent average and a lot of pop in her bat, she’s a plus fielder that won’t make many mistakes.
Katie Pippel Fr OF/P
Bellevue Christian, Bellevue, Wa

A late addition that didn’t play in fall but has joined the Griz this spring. A .600+ hitter who also brings some respectable power and speed to the plate. The primary pitcher for her class A squad from Washington, she’ll be utilized as an OFer but is experienced with IF and C also. She should look to challenge for the open RF position.

Here’s a link to roster
http://gogriz.com/roster.aspx?path=softball

Fall season recap
Another successful fall season that was cut short two games. The Griz were 6-0 including avenging our loss in fall ball last year to Carrol and their ace pitcher. As usual, the offensive and pitching numbers were off the chart. A 0.67 team era has almost become the expected during the fall season. Boston College transfer Cami Sellers, NC Central transfer Ava Dolan, and Fr McKenna Tjaden paced the team with .500+ averages. The most important part was getting live game action for a whole bunch of new faces with some old faces trying new positions like Morgan Johnson at first and Michaela Hood some time in the batters box. Most of the Fr played multiple positions with versatility becoming something Coach is really big on. Hopefully their fall experience will help all these Fr find their roles quicker and prepare them for the spring.

The 2019 schedule
This years schedule might not have the marquee PAC 12 matchups that we’ve seen in the past but it’ll be challenging non the less, especially with our inexperienced team coming in this year. More intriguing are some of the other western conference matchups and then a brutal conference schedule.
We face two teams that were top 25 or near top 25 last year in Texas St(#22) from the Sun Belt and Big 10 Northwestern(#31). Northwestern almost advanced to the 2nd round of the tournament after beating Cal in two games and losing to the group host Georgia 9-7 in the advancement game(64 teams go to the tournament divided into 16 groups with the top 16 seeded and hosting the four team groups. Each group plays a mini double elimination bracket with the winner of each group advancing to the 2nd round or the equivalent of basketballs sweet 16. In the last two years no 1st round host team has been eliminated but in ‘16 it happened twice). Our only PAC 12 opponent is two games versus Stanford who finished with an RPI ranking of #105(296 D-1 teams). They definitely could be our 1st victory over a PAC 12 team after numerous losses last year to teams of our caliber including Sac St, Seattle, and UC Riverside amongst others.
Most importantly on our non-con schedule are some key western con matchups against teams that finished inside the top 100 in the rpi rankings last year. We’ll face New Mexico St(#92) on their home turf after they were tournament qualifiers last year. Also, two games at Fresno St(#87) and two neutral site match ups vs San Jose St(#55) from the MWC will be good tests for our young squad. Some other good western con games are Big West foes Cal Poly(#117), at UC Davis(#127), and UC Santa Barbara(#164). We’ll see two other teams from the Mountain West in Nevada(#126) for three games and Utah St(#207). Other western con games that should be must wins are Utah Valley(#221) and Cal St Bakersfield(#289) from the WAC and Santa Clara(#244) from the WCC. There will be a couple good match ups from some mid-western schools too though including NDSU(#47) and former Big Sky member North Dakota(#217) from the Summit. Ball St(#118) from the MAC and Bradley(#154) from the MVC will be a good tests also. One more intriguing match up is D-2 Cal Baptist who finished #5 in the country last year. Soccer fans will remember their soccer team beat our Grizzlies in the last regular season game of the year before our amazing post season run.
By comparison, our rpi ranking last year was #182 after finishing #125 in ‘17. That placed us third in the Big Sky behind Weber St(#151) and Northern Colorado(#167) and just ahead of Portland St(#184) and BSC champion Sac St(#189) who went 0-2 in the NCAA tournament. Speaking of perennial conference powers Sac and WSU, we’ll be on the road to both locations this year along with Southern Utah(#251). Getting to host UNC, PSU, and Idaho St(#245) should help the home record but those road tests will be real tuff.

Here’s a link to the schedule
https://gogriz.com/schedule.aspx?schedule=260

Sneak peek to next years recruits
On paper, this looks like a pretty strong class. A left handed pitcher with an amazing bat, a speedy defensive outfielder with SS experience, and two strong utility infielders who can play most anywhere. Coach Mel has said there may be another addition during the spring signing period but it would have to be the right fit due to the roster size.
Here’s a link to signing day
https://gogriz.com/news/2018/11/27/soft ... -four.aspx

Kendall Curtis, a Ut IF’er from Snohomish Wa (Glacier Peak High) hits for a high average hitting .542 as a Jr. She was 1st Team All-Wesco and 2nd Team All-Area also. Coach says she “has good hands and some power from the right side.” With no Sr’s in the infield next year, she’ll provide good depth and get some valuable learning experiences for the first two years.

Jaxie Klucewich from Eagle Id (Eagle High) is the niece of two former Griz football players from the 80’s. She’ll be a Ut IF’er with MIF and LF experience. Her team took 2nd at state after four straight state championships and finished the year ranked 66th nationally. As a Jr, she was a 1st Team IF All-Southern Con selection. Coach Mel says “She has a Skill set and great speed”. Her .465 batting average and 20 stolen bases can attest to that.

Julie Phelps from Riverside Ca (JW North High) has mostly played SS but will play OF for the Griz. Coach had a lot of good things to say about her, “A Slap hitter and a general in the OF...A lot of speed and a great arm...adding power to her game”. She was a 1st Team All Sunset League as a So and a Jr. Last year her team lost in the Div 5 CIF-Southern Section Title game. A .400+ hitter slugging almost .700, she also racked up 26 stolen bases while committing only 2 errors all year last year.

Ashley Ward from Henderson Nv (Coronado High) will pitch for Montana but she seems to do more damage while in the batters box. The Player of the Year in the Sunrise League, she also played 1B and OF. In 36 games, she hit .644 and slugged 1.057. She racked up 52 rbi 46 runs with 11 stolen bases. Most amazing was in 133 plate appearances, she only struck out 4 times. Her 2.11 era in 49.2 innings with 52 k’s was pretty decent too.

This should still be an exciting year with fresh blood being injected into an very young successful program. The building blocks have been laid and the foundation is solid. WSU and Sac St are historically great programs but it will still be a three horse race and as usual, it should be an exciting photo finish.
"In Bill's(Wild Bill Kelly) tragic death there might be some message for the college society that basks in the glory of the football team and the individual heroes, but overlooks the fact that they are like the rest of us with conflicts, fears, frustrations, and weakness."-Joseph Cochran, friend of Kelly's

maroonandsilver
eGriz Club
Posts: 1690
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2009 4:25 am

Re: 2019 softball preview

Post by maroonandsilver » Thu Jan 24, 2019 1:57 pm

Our season tickets have arrived and we are ready for the season!

ilovethecats
Posts: 4653
Joined: Sun Nov 06, 2005 11:56 pm

Re: 2019 softball preview

Post by ilovethecats » Thu Jan 24, 2019 2:20 pm

alabamagrizzly wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 1:08 pm
2019 season preview
Well it’s that time of year again and I for one am ready and excited to get this season started in two very short weeks. Now believe it or not, these ARE the Montana Grizzlies despite all the new faces. Nearly half the girls on the roster are new to the program with only nine returning players after graduating a mind boggling 11 girls last year. That’s 55% of last years roster gone with 6 of the 8 position players and the primary DH all gone. The major bright spot is though that the pitchers responsible for 95% of the innings thrown last year are all back and hopefully healthy. The other good news is three of the most dominant pitchers in the history of the Big Sky all graduated last year and the pitching experience around the league is very thin. Two time con pitcher of the year Celina Mathias of Sac St and Kirtlyn Bohling of WSU, the winningest pitcher in BSC history will both be gone leaving the top two programs looking for a new ace. Also Kaylin VanDomelen of UND, who’s whole team isn’t returning to the Big Sky graduates too along with ISU’s Ashlyn Ames. That should take a little pressure of our offense knowing they won’t have to face those dominant pitchers anymore. Hopefully that will help our magic number of 3 from last year, 3 runs allowed to the opposition that is. It was imperative that we held them to 3 because our offense couldn’t score. If we held them to 3 or less, we were 24-10 which should be acceptable. It’s the 1-20 record when allowing more then 3 that was disastrous. Our lack of offense was our downfall. Hopefully that will improve with the fresh faces entering the line up and the lack of experienced opposing pitchers around the league.

2018 season recap
I’ll try not to dredge up the past too much but it wasn’t good, offensively anyway. Pitching and defense were their usual near league leading selves but the O may have been its worst since year 1, maybe even worse. With the high hopes that this Sr laden team had of repeating as con champs, barely squeaking into the playoffs as a 5 seed would be considered a letdown. Granted our ace pitcher was out through most of the con schedule, it was the bats that repeatedly failed us, and some might say it was the coaching. I’m sure Coach Mel would be the 1st to tell you that. We have an open assistant position though and an experienced hitting coach would be ideal here, or a perfect time for Delene Colburn to start her coaching career.

Here’s a link to last years review
viewtopic.php?t=80068
and stats.
https://stats.gogriz.com/sports/w-softb ... h=softball

Player departures
This section will be muuuuch bigger then normal, obviously. We all knew this day was coming. Over four years ago when these girls signed up to play for the Griz, the mass exodus was all part of the plan. There’s no question which one of these girls left the biggest stamp on the team and league but all these girls played a vital part in the rapid building of this title contending team.

Delene Colburn/SS.
Can somebody remind me who this is again. I seen her name on the roster but I’m having a tuff time remembering who she is. Ok, that’s a bad joke. Seriously, Delene may not just be a cornerstone for the Griz softball team. She may be the whole foundation. She certainly is in the record books. She owns four career and single season conference marks plus every team record except stolen bases, triples, and batting average. She graduated probably the best SS in the history of the Big Sky with UNC’s Erika Dick the only other possibly in contention. Players like her are so far in between that, in my opinion, there is only one in the league right now in Sac St’s Suzy Brookshire. It is unfortunate to see her go but like all athletes, they must move on eventually. The firmest if salutes to you Delene, you were the best.

Ashlyn Lyons/1B.
The 2nd of the four four-year starters that are leaving the program, Ashlyn was a consistent force at 1B for the Griz. A four time con selection(three HM, one 2nd team), she was a steady .300 hitter her first three years until raising her game her Sr year batting .340 while setting career highs in doubles(12), homers(7), and RBI(32). Her .988% career fielding percentage should place her pretty high in the all time con rankings as well. Oh, she’s also the only Griz to have a chance to play professionally after being drafted by a new start up league. Hope it works out for you Ashlyn.

Gabby Martinez/2B.
By far the smallest girl to ever wear a Griz uni but she still had a big impact. She locked 2B down for four years with a .971 career fielding percentage while earning two league HM nods. Starting 210 of Montana’s 220 games over the last four years, she was a career .250 hitter and the Griz’s leader in stolen bases. Her speed and ability to put the ball in play from the bottom of the line up with Anne Marie Petrino were a big asset several times this year when the top of the lineup wasn’t finding hits. You will be missed Gabby.

MaKenna McGill/CF.
The last of the four year starters, MaKenna had CF locked down until a knee injury nearly ended her career mid way through her Jr season. After going all the way into spring of her Sr year, that season was still in question but after getting medically cleared just before the season began, she was able to start every game for the Griz in center. Her .300+ BA and 36 career stolen bases will be missed but her 4 errors(3 her Fr year) in 186 games started in CF will be hard pressed to match. MaKenna, you were a defensive gem in center.

Madison Saacke/C.
A three year starter between catching and DH duties. One of the better defensive catchers the last two years, she was a 3 time HM league selection. Also one of the more potent bats, although she never came close to matching her .355 BA her So year as the DH. Still a .260+ career average is no slouch. Madison, for all you’ve done for the Griz the last four years we thank you. Thank you also for your last gift of the transfer Cami Sellers due to her connection to you and your family.

Alex Wardlow/RF.
A two year starter at all three outfield positions, Wardlow filled in well when needed. She didn’t have great offensive numbers but her defense was pretty decent and she did manage some timely hits. Good luck to you Alex in your post softball life.

Tori Lettus/DH/IF.
Tori has been a key utility player for the Griz through her four years playing five different positions plus DH including starting the first half of last year at 3B. She may go down as Montana’s strike out queen but she was still a main building block to the Griz program.

Haley Young/P.
She transferred here in ‘16 to become the last member of the class of ‘18 to join. Although her innings were limited due to the quality of pitchers on our staff, I for one will always remember fondly her emotional rendition of the Star Spangled Banner on Sr Day for these Girls last home game of the careers.

Dani Walker C/Mackenzie Phillips OF/Katie Jo Waletzko OF-bench platoon.
Three die hard girls who spent their entire four year careers coming of the bench for pinch hit, pinch run, or a defensive replacement whenever one was needed. Phillips and Walker did see some starts early in the first two years but as new recruits joined, their playing time went down. They had 23 starts this year, 17 of those coming from Walker. These girls commitment to the program should be honored to show appreciation of a true role player.

Projected starters for 2019
First base
So Cami Sellers may be the only lock in all the vacated positions on the field. Last year as a Fr, she started 52 games at first for Boston College, the 2nd place team in the ACC behind only National Champion Florida St. Granted she only batted .218 with 32 k’s in 147 at bats, both primary concerns here, but that was as a Fr facing upper level pitching. “Dropping down” into the Big Sky should help her raise her game. Her fielding will fit in just fine with a .973% with over 330 attempts last year. Missoula Big Sky grad Morgan Johnson played some here in the fall also and may split time between first and DH.

Second base
So Lexi Knauss is currently the most experienced at 2B for the Griz playing all of two games last year while committing 0 errors in four attempts. Not exactly got the position locked up yet. Both incoming Fr Kylie Becker and Kaelyn Smith have solid middle infielder experience but they may also be competing for the open SS position. Knauss has yet to find her stroke collegiately and recently took a year off of live game fielding while behind Martinez and Colburn. Both the Fr are high average and speed, limited power with good gloves in high school so which ever one transitions to the college level faster, will win one of the starting jobs.

Third base
Jr Ava Dolan transferred in from NC Central to possibly play 3rd but with the last roster update, she is no longer listed. This will most likely force So Jessica McAlister to stay at 3rd, despite catcher being her natural and position of choice. McAlister’s .958% as a Fr at the hot corner was one of the best in the league so we know she’s not just filling in, she can play. Incoming Fr MaKenna Tjaden who had an amazing fall, Maygen McGrath, Brooklyn Weisgram, and Reily Williams all have corner infield experience in high school also but no telling which will be ready and none of them played 3rd last year.

Shortstop
My guess is Fr Kylie Becker will take the lead on this but fellow Fr Maygen McGrath got a good look in fall and showed a lot of promise. Becker hit nearly .500 her Sr year of high school and as a four year starter at SS for her Las Vegas school, she hit .380 in over a 100 starts. She might lack in power but makes up for it in speed. Coach Mel says she’s a line drive gap hitter with about 1/3 of her hits going for 2 or 3 bases and nearly 60 steals in her career. Like I said earlier, and a theme you will see repeated, this position is up for grabs though. Kaelyn Smith of Polsen will be in consideration also.

Left field
Jr Anne Marie Petrino is the other of the only two position starters returning and should have LF locked down. Her career bat of .231 could use some work, especially for a slap hitter. She has decent speed though and is still maturing. Fr MaKenna Tjaden, Kaelyn Smith, and Brooklyn Weisgram all have OF experience too and one of them should be taking over RF, but the other two will definitely want to challenge for a starting roll. Of course, this is all depending Petrino doesn’t slide over to center, which I’m guessing she won’t.

Centerfield
Jr Kylie Hayton is my guess at center. It was her position of choice in high school and she certainly has the speed for it. Hopefully she has the glove. She’s committed one error in 32 fielding attempts, most of which were in RF last year. Her bat, like Petrino, is what needs to step up. She currently owns a .213 career average. Not sure if any of the Fr OFers can play center but if they can, they’ll be in the mix too.

Right field
Fr Brooklyn Weisgram is my pick to get RF but the position is wide open. Fr Katie Pippel is a wild card that didn’t arrive tell this spring. She brings a high average, lots of pop, and decent speed to the plate. Kaelyn Smith and MaKenna Tjaden have all shown to be high average hitters with great speed who also may be in the mix.

Catcher
So Jessica McAlister’s position of preference and it’s the position she played for the two time New Mexico State champs and at one point, MaxPreps #10 ranked team in the country. I’m sure though if she had her say, she’d play any position that benefits the team the most. Much of where Coach will choose to play her depends largely on the development of the two Fr with experience catching. Reily Williams and MaKenna Tjaden both have experience but Williams is probably the most polished of the two. She’s an exceptional game manager with a very high softball IQ. Her average is decent with plus power potential. Tjaden is a high average hitter but limited in power. She is also extremely versatile in the field and can play anywhere and that may keep her in more of a roll of utility where she can help rest anyone in the game. Jr Morgan Johnson has been sitting for two years for her chance to play but her bat has been a long way away from the potential she had coming out of high school. A .115% hitter in 61 at bats, she really must blossom this year.

Designated Player
Like usual, this will be by committee and is pretty much only used as a designated hitter. Maddy Stensby could see an increased presence here as the only Sr to possibly see time in the batters box this year. Morgan Johnson or any of the Fr that can step up that didn’t earn a starting spot will see time here too. The concern here is to not have a girl just filling the slot that isn’t productive. We haven’t had a steady DH since Madison Saacke hit .355% in ‘16 from the DH slot. Last years DH’s(and there were many) batted .144 which is not good to say the least. Stensby led the way collecting 4 hits in 20 at bats for a .200 average.

The Reservers
This will be an odd year, due to the high turnover, where there won’t be any reserves really tell the start of the season. Coach Mel will probably use the the non-con schedule to solidify her starting lineup but everyone pretty much has a chance to start this year.

The Pitchers
Michaela Hood Jr

A ruff So campaign helped bring Michaela back to earth after her record setting Fr year. Basically put on the shelf early in the con schedule, her numbers took a plunge. Like most on this team though, I’m sure she’s concerned more with the team winning then her numbers and her getting healthy will greatly improve those winning opportunities, as long as the bats pick up. Her injury status was never made public so the extent of her health and if she’ll return to her Fr dominance are all still unknowns except to her and the staff but if her dominance in fall was any indication, she’ll be fine.
Colleen Driscoll Sr
The best #2 pitcher in the con was forced into the #1 slot and showed no sign of wilting under the pressure. Colleen dominates through control and is one of the best with walks/7 innings and WHIP. She also doubled her k production last year rising from about 0.4/inning to about 0.8/inning. Obviously we’d want a healthy Micheala as our #1 but if Colleen gets the call, she will rise to the occasion.
Maddy Stensby Sr
If Colleen is the best #2 then Stensby is by far the best #3, which most schools don’t have a #3. She’d be the starter on atleast a couple staffs in the BSC. Her era did fall a bit but it was still good for 12th in the con. With her and Colleen being the only Sr’s, I’d expect them to see an increased roll but Michaela’s health and Achenbach’s maturity will dictate that too. Atleast she should see more AB’s from the DH position.
Tristin Achenbach So
She will be a star in this league...someday. She had the highest k rate of any of Montana’s pitchers at 0.83 per inning. Only two pitchers had a higher rate in the con last year and they represented the last three con pitcher of the year award winners and both have now graduated. Now, with Michaela and the two Sr’s on the staff, she might not reach stardom this year, but then again, she might. Let’s just say her future is bright.

Incoming freshmen/transfers
Eight, maybe nine new Griz joining the team to replace the 11 that left. Well some can’t be “replaced” but hopefully these new comers will find ways to leave their own mark. Some of them we need sooner then others. One Jr maybe, one So, and seven Fr are joining the nine returning girls. Here’s a brief summary of where they came from.
Ava Dolan Jr 3B
North Carolina Central

Ava was going to be a big pick up for us this year but currently her status is in question. After some social media stalking, she appears to have a severe medical issue in her family. Not sure if she’s taking the year off or completely done with softball but currently she is not listed on the roster. A great player on an awful team last year, her BA, RBI, and HR totals led the MEAC and set school records. A high school teammate of Michaela, she decided to join the Griz based off Michaela’s recommendation. Hopefully, prayers and medicine will heal what’s going on and she can resume life as normal.
Cami Sellers So 1B
Boston College

A So transfer from ACC power Boston College, she should elevate her performance from last year where she started 52 games at 1B for the Eagles. A left handed power hitter, she needs to work on her .218 BA and 32 k’s but those numbers should improve.
Kaelyn Smith Fr SS/IF/OF
Polsen High, Mt

The starting SS for Polsen who earned a #1NW region seed going into the state tourney. She’s a high average speedy hitter who I think will compete for both middle infield positions or RF. She lacks power but a high average will still be a welcome addition to this team.
Brooklyn Weisgram Fr OF/CIF
Missoula Sentinel, Mt

An outfielder with some corner infield experience, she’s also a local kid which is really cool. While helping her team to a 2nd place finish at state, she brings plus average and some power, which hopefully her bat will add some pop to our “low octane” offense. Look for her to try and earn the RF gig.
Kylie Becker Fr SS/MIF
Foothill, Las Vegas, Nv

Maybe the gem of the class, she’s a four year starter at SS for her high school team. She’s also a former club teammate of Michaela who is quickly becoming one of our best recruiters. Her bat which hits for a very high average as a line drive gap hitter and the speed she brings to the base paths will definitely be a welcome addition but it’s her fieldwork that may be the most rewarding. She played years of baseball growing up and has great hands and arm strength which should make her all but a lock to takeover where Delene left off.
Maygen McGrath Fr LSIF/P
South Salem High, Or

Out of Oregon, Maygen is a highly decorated left side infielder with some pitching experience which most likely won’t be called on at Montana. Her glove and arm from the SS/3B side is why she was recruited along with the pop she brings with her bat. Look for her to challenge for SS also.
MaKenna Tjaden Fr C/CIF/OF
Murrieta Valley, Ca

A catcher and corner infielder with OF experience also, shes a complete utility player. A high average hitter with limited power and excellent speed, she can really hit well.
Reily Williams Fr C/CIF
Lake City, Coeur d’Alene, Id

Possibly the other gem in this class and most likely the starting catcher if Coach Mel doesn’t move McAlister back there. An extremely high softball IQ and loves to manage the game. With a decent average and a lot of pop in her bat, she’s a plus fielder that won’t make many mistakes.
Katie Pippel Fr OF/P
Bellevue Christian, Bellevue, Wa

A late addition that didn’t play in fall but has joined the Griz this spring. A .600+ hitter who also brings some respectable power and speed to the plate. The primary pitcher for her class A squad from Washington, she’ll be utilized as an OFer but is experienced with IF and C also. She should look to challenge for the open RF position.

Here’s a link to roster
http://gogriz.com/roster.aspx?path=softball

Fall season recap
Another successful fall season that was cut short two games. The Griz were 6-0 including avenging our loss in fall ball last year to Carrol and their ace pitcher. As usual, the offensive and pitching numbers were off the chart. A 0.67 team era has almost become the expected during the fall season. Boston College transfer Cami Sellers, NC Central transfer Ava Dolan, and Fr McKenna Tjaden paced the team with .500+ averages. The most important part was getting live game action for a whole bunch of new faces with some old faces trying new positions like Morgan Johnson at first and Michaela Hood some time in the batters box. Most of the Fr played multiple positions with versatility becoming something Coach is really big on. Hopefully their fall experience will help all these Fr find their roles quicker and prepare them for the spring.

The 2019 schedule
This years schedule might not have the marquee PAC 12 matchups that we’ve seen in the past but it’ll be challenging non the less, especially with our inexperienced team coming in this year. More intriguing are some of the other western conference matchups and then a brutal conference schedule.
We face two teams that were top 25 or near top 25 last year in Texas St(#22) from the Sun Belt and Big 10 Northwestern(#31). Northwestern almost advanced to the 2nd round of the tournament after beating Cal in two games and losing to the group host Georgia 9-7 in the advancement game(64 teams go to the tournament divided into 16 groups with the top 16 seeded and hosting the four team groups. Each group plays a mini double elimination bracket with the winner of each group advancing to the 2nd round or the equivalent of basketballs sweet 16. In the last two years no 1st round host team has been eliminated but in ‘16 it happened twice). Our only PAC 12 opponent is two games versus Stanford who finished with an RPI ranking of #105(296 D-1 teams). They definitely could be our 1st victory over a PAC 12 team after numerous losses last year to teams of our caliber including Sac St, Seattle, and UC Riverside amongst others.
Most importantly on our non-con schedule are some key western con matchups against teams that finished inside the top 100 in the rpi rankings last year. We’ll face New Mexico St(#92) on their home turf after they were tournament qualifiers last year. Also, two games at Fresno St(#87) and two neutral site match ups vs San Jose St(#55) from the MWC will be good tests for our young squad. Some other good western con games are Big West foes Cal Poly(#117), at UC Davis(#127), and UC Santa Barbara(#164). We’ll see two other teams from the Mountain West in Nevada(#126) for three games and Utah St(#207). Other western con games that should be must wins are Utah Valley(#221) and Cal St Bakersfield(#289) from the WAC and Santa Clara(#244) from the WCC. There will be a couple good match ups from some mid-western schools too though including NDSU(#47) and former Big Sky member North Dakota(#217) from the Summit. Ball St(#118) from the MAC and Bradley(#154) from the MVC will be a good tests also. One more intriguing match up is D-2 Cal Baptist who finished #5 in the country last year. Soccer fans will remember their soccer team beat our Grizzlies in the last regular season game of the year before our amazing post season run.
By comparison, our rpi ranking last year was #182 after finishing #125 in ‘17. That placed us third in the Big Sky behind Weber St(#151) and Northern Colorado(#167) and just ahead of Portland St(#184) and BSC champion Sac St(#189) who went 0-2 in the NCAA tournament. Speaking of perennial conference powers Sac and WSU, we’ll be on the road to both locations this year along with Southern Utah(#251). Getting to host UNC, PSU, and Idaho St(#245) should help the home record but those road tests will be real tuff.

Here’s a link to the schedule
https://gogriz.com/schedule.aspx?schedule=260

Sneak peek to next years recruits
On paper, this looks like a pretty strong class. A left handed pitcher with an amazing bat, a speedy defensive outfielder with SS experience, and two strong utility infielders who can play most anywhere. Coach Mel has said there may be another addition during the spring signing period but it would have to be the right fit due to the roster size.
Here’s a link to signing day
https://gogriz.com/news/2018/11/27/soft ... -four.aspx

Kendall Curtis, a Ut IF’er from Snohomish Wa (Glacier Peak High) hits for a high average hitting .542 as a Jr. She was 1st Team All-Wesco and 2nd Team All-Area also. Coach says she “has good hands and some power from the right side.” With no Sr’s in the infield next year, she’ll provide good depth and get some valuable learning experiences for the first two years.

Jaxie Klucewich from Eagle Id (Eagle High) is the niece of two former Griz football players from the 80’s. She’ll be a Ut IF’er with MIF and LF experience. Her team took 2nd at state after four straight state championships and finished the year ranked 66th nationally. As a Jr, she was a 1st Team IF All-Southern Con selection. Coach Mel says “She has a Skill set and great speed”. Her .465 batting average and 20 stolen bases can attest to that.

Julie Phelps from Riverside Ca (JW North High) has mostly played SS but will play OF for the Griz. Coach had a lot of good things to say about her, “A Slap hitter and a general in the OF...A lot of speed and a great arm...adding power to her game”. She was a 1st Team All Sunset League as a So and a Jr. Last year her team lost in the Div 5 CIF-Southern Section Title game. A .400+ hitter slugging almost .700, she also racked up 26 stolen bases while committing only 2 errors all year last year.

Ashley Ward from Henderson Nv (Coronado High) will pitch for Montana but she seems to do more damage while in the batters box. The Player of the Year in the Sunrise League, she also played 1B and OF. In 36 games, she hit .644 and slugged 1.057. She racked up 52 rbi 46 runs with 11 stolen bases. Most amazing was in 133 plate appearances, she only struck out 4 times. Her 2.11 era in 49.2 innings with 52 k’s was pretty decent too.

This should still be an exciting year with fresh blood being injected into an very young successful program. The building blocks have been laid and the foundation is solid. WSU and Sac St are historically great programs but it will still be a three horse race and as usual, it should be an exciting photo finish.
As a father and a coach of a young softball player, the effort you put in to this is awesome.

I took her and a couple friends to a griz game last year and will do so again this year...

Even got a little carried away a few times last year and accidently cheered :oops:

HookedonGriz
eGriz Club
Posts: 7221
Joined: Mon Sep 20, 2010 9:18 pm

Re: 2019 softball preview

Post by HookedonGriz » Thu Jan 24, 2019 2:24 pm

Awesome summary and thank you for doing it. I am hopeful our pitching will continue to be dominant and I think it will. But where we need to see massive improvement is in our offense and run production and I will still hold strong that we need the coaches to make some better decisions.... when to bunt, when not to bunt, what count they should bunt in, hit and run, stealing bases, etc. I feel like our coaching lacked significantly in that arena compared to how Pickerton managed the game

AZDoc
Posts: 4057
Joined: Fri Jan 22, 2010 8:00 pm
Location: Idaho

Re: 2019 softball preview

Post by AZDoc » Fri Jan 25, 2019 8:31 am

Thank you very much for the preview. Look forward to the season!
A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool-Bill Shakespeare
What a Fool Believes-The Doobie Brothers

grizzlyjournal
Posts: 2013
Joined: Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:54 pm
Location: Missoula

Re: 2019 softball preview

Post by grizzlyjournal » Mon Jan 28, 2019 11:06 pm

Excelent, comprehensive and detailed preview, Alabamagrizzy! Thank you very much for the perspective. Looking forward to the season.

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