For the first time in program history, our record decreased from the prior year. Every year until this we had seen a steady incline. This year our record fell from 35-24 last year to 25-30 this year. That’s a decrease of -8 games. We just barely logged a win against a team in the top #100 of the RPI rankings with Troy(#98) and UC Riverside popping in and out at the end of the year, going 2-7 against foes in the top 100. Our road win against #100 ranked UC Riverside was our best quality win of the year. Going 6-12(4-8 vs non conference foes) against teams ranked between us at #178 and #101 was worse then last years mark of 6-2 also. Going 17-10(5-1 vs non con D1 foes) against teams ranked below us was slightly worse then last years 24-11. As for our con games, Montana had their worst con record since going 8-13 in ‘15. At 10-11, they finished in 5th place and squeaked into the tournament where they went 1-2 and were eliminated by UND. They did have two series sweeps on the year, one more then last year and both were on the road albeit against the two worst teams in the con. They also lost 5 con series’s this year including all three at home. Their last con series loss came at ISU April 9th, 2016 and their last home series loss came April 10th of ‘15 at the hands of UNC.
#1 Oklahoma Loss 0-4, ranking heading into the World Series 3/3
For the 1st time in program history, Montana faced off against the #1 team in the country. With six players on their roster on the watchlist for National Player of the Year, it was certainly a daunting task but the girls were up for the challenge. Hood started strong retiring the side in the 1st including striking out last years World Series MVP. In the 2nd Hood gave up a 2 out RBI single which would be all Oklahoma needed thanks to their dominant pitching. In the 3rd they would add a 2 out 2 run homer and then tack on one more in the 5th with a 2 out RBI single. Offensively Montana only had two base runners all day with only one advancing to 2nd but defensively and the pitching proved they could hang with the best team in the country and two time National Champions. Montana played error free ball and Hood(5ip) and Achenbach(1ip) combined to allow 8 hits, 4 runs, and strike out 5(all hits and runs credited to Hood).
#11 Arizona Loss 1-2, ranking heading into the World Series 10/11
Colburn hit a solo HR in the 1st off last years PAC12 2nd team pitcher to give the Griz an early lead. Lettus led off the 2nd with a walk for Montana and then Arizona’s pitcher retired the next 15 batters until Colburn led off the 7th with a walk. She was then promptly thrown out attempting to steal 2nd. Driscoll’s only real trouble came in the 3rd when Arizona hit a double followed by a 2 out 2 run HR which would prove to be the difference. Montana’s pitching and defense once again rose to the challenge. With the girls playing error free ball again, Driscoll(4ip) and Hood(2ip) combined to allow 6 hits, 2 runs, and strike out 4.
#5 Oregon Two Losses 0-6,0-7, ranking heading into the World Series 1/2
Of Oregon’s five games on tap for their invitational that weekend including two against Weber, both of Montana’s games were the only ones to not end due to the 5th inning 8 run mercy rule. That was about the only bright spot of both games. In game one Montana was no hit by one of Oregon’s two aces. In game two Montana was 1 hit by the other. Oregon smacked out 10 hits in each contest getting to just about every pitcher except Achenbach who pitched a hitless (1 bb) 6th inning in Montana’s final defensive frame in game two and Young who didn’t pitch. Driscoll did start game 1 well holding Oregon scoreless through 3 but in the 4th, she gave up 3 runs and was relieved by Hood who gave up 3 more in the later frames.
All games were good experience for the girls though. To compete with the best, you gotta play the best.
Although we seen the record decline, pitching seemed to either stay steady or improve in all categories except strike outs, the latter due to Hood missing so much at the end of the season. Despite that though we still led the league. Batting on the other hand followed the trend of declining like last year after the record setting year of ‘16. A lot of Fr are going to have to step up next year to buck the trend with basically a new team with six of our eight position starters graduating.
As for pitching, ERA stayed about the same going from 3.09 last year to 3.08 this year. All five of our pitchers had ERA’s among the league leaders. Complete games(19 to 21), walks(126 to 93), and opponents batting average(.270 to .260) all improved. Defense once again was on point leading the league while improving last years fielding percentage from .968 to .970. At the plate on the other hand wasn’t so good. While leading the league in at bats, we finished dead last in slugging percentage. The girls slash line dropped from .280/.358./.390 to .249/.322/.322. That .249 batting average was good for 6th in the league. Stolen bases dropped from 33 to 27. Runs and homers plummeted from 264 and 28 to 190 and 17. One thing that drastically improved though from last year was our batting average with runners in scoring position. Last year our average dipped from .280 to .277 with runners on 2nd or 3rd. This year our average increased from the aforementioned .249 to .292 which was a huge difference. All these offensive declines are largely due to the absence of two of our top four hitters from last year in Bethany Olea and Sydney Stites. Now next year we will also need to “replace” Colburn and Lyons. Jessica McAlister is working on bringing in some offensive pop but none of the other returning players save maybe Petrino have shown much real offensive threat. Hopefully that will develop more and some of our Fr from our biggest recruiting class since year one can transition well to the college game.
1B Ashlyn Lyons-Easily the most improved offensively from last year and by far the 2nd best hitter on the team. A consistent .300 hitter throughout her career, this year she batted .341. Up until this year, she had hit one career home run. This year she smacked 7. She also set career marks in doubles(12) and RBI’s(32). One of the best fielding first baseman her entire career, this year she maintained that committing only 3 errors all year at a .991 fielding percentage. Her career mark of .988 would rank her very high among all BSC first baseman. Like many positions next year, someone will have some very big shoes to fill when replacing the 4 time all conference selection(3x honorable mention, 1x 2nd team).
2B Gabby Martinez-The 2nd of three four year starters in the infield. Last year she had the most improved batting average raising it 35 points up to .261. This year she nearly maintained that clip hitting .250. Last year her fielding percentage dipped a bit after committing a career high 8 errors but this year she rebounded raising her percentage nearly 20 points back up to .972, giving her a .971 career mark, also one of the best at 2B. The 2x all con honorable mention’s speed and ability to put the ball in play from the bottom of the line up will be missed.
3B Tori Lettus/Jessica McAlister-I don’t normally toot my own horn but here it goes. My preview of the 3rd base position before the season began.
Lettus started the year at 3rd but was eventually replaced by McAlister. Obviously both were a giant step down from Olea but I think McAlister showed signs of eventually becoming great as the season neared its end. In her first 15 games switching between 3rd and DH, she batted .176 with 3 RBI. After becoming the full time starter at 3rd, she batted .287 in 29 games with 14 RBI, 6 doubles and a walk off homer vs Utah Valley. She also finished the season with an 8 game hitting streak where she batted .455 with 7 RBI’s. She will carry that streak into next year. She may switch to catcher next year but one thing is certain, she will be the only infielder with any experience.This will be an interesting decision for Melanie to decide who replaces Olea. Tori Lettus will be a Sr and is the only experienced infielder on the team to step into the vacancy. But as a career .208 hitter in 218 at bats with 63 k's, her bat has definitely needed improvement. She did have an excellent fall, like most everyone else, but I see the Fr Jessica McAlister taking the lead at 3rd. She may struggle early on in the non con schedule but I believe she will be good and settled in by the time con play comes around. With good power and a high batting average in high school that carried into fall ball, I see her becoming a star in this league. Lettus could also see time at the designated player slot, along with a long list of other girls.
SS Delene Colburn-No question she will be one of the greats for a long time to graduate from Montana. The conference’s all time leader in games played, doubles and tied for RBI’s; 2nd in hits and homers; and 3rd in runs scored and at bats. Not to mention a stellar .932 career fielding percentage, she’s arguably the greatest SS in the short history of the Big Sky. There will be no replacing her and everything she has done for this program. Along with Lyons, she’s the only other Griz to have four all con selections(1x honorable mention, 2x 2nd team, 1x 1st team). She did see career lows in HR’s(9), doubles(9), and one over her career low in RBI’s(39) but she did set a personal best in walks(28) and strike outs(6); all this thanks largely to being by far the most dominant bat in the lineup and with little protection behind her.
LF Anna Marie Petrino-After platooning last year with Wardlow and Phillips, Petrino locked up LF this year starting 46 of the teams 55 games. A good slap hitter, her average has dipped this year from .245 last year to .221. She finished 4th on the team in runs with 17 and 3rd in stolen bases with 5. Her defense has struggled also after not committing an error last year in 35 attempts, this year she committed 3 errors, good for a .947 fielding percentage. Katie Jo Waletzko did see a lot of time as a defensive replacement in over 30 games recording 1 error in 11 attempts.
CF MaKenna McGill-After a steep decline in batting average last year and then missing the 2nd half due to injury, MaKenna would be the comeback player of the year if the con had one. From batting .375 as a So to .195 last year, this year she’s raised it back up to .264 A medium stolen base threat, she wraps up her career with 36 stolen bases, good for 2nd on Montana’s list behind Martinez. Fielding has always been her strong point though not committing an error her entire So and Jr year. Committing 1 this year, she finishes her career with a .988%, definitely one of the tops in the con of all time for CF.
RF Alex Wardlow/Kylie Hayton-After replacing McGill in center last year, Wardlow got to replace Sydney Stites and her .321 career batting average and 19 career homers in right this year. She definitely didn’t have the Sr year she envisioned but she still had her moments like some spectacular catches, including a diving catch and throwing out the Sac St runner at home for a double play in a Montana win. Her batting average (.250 to .152) and fielding percentage (.957 to .895) did drop considerably from last year but she will always be remembered as an integral part of the foundation that built Montana softball. Hayton did get her fair share of starts(19 in RF) also but she may be the front runner to take over center next year due to her speed in the outfield. Her .214 batting average should improve also.
C Madison Saacke-A 3 time honorable mention all con selection(1 UT as a Fr and 2 for C her Jr and Sr years), Saacke was a superb defensive catcher. Her batting average never reached the .355 area like it was her So season as the DH, falling back to .251 last year and staying about there at .257 this year. She also was expecting some pop this year after hitting four homers last year, giving her five for her career, but she failed to clear the fence once this year. She was consistently in the top three for runners thrown out and her .983% was always amongst the league leaders for catchers also. What may be missed most though is her familiarity with the pitching staff. There will not be a single catcher on the roster next year with live game experience with our pitchers.
DH Knauss/Stensby/Lettus/Johnson-Unlike some teams that consistently have the same DH every game, Montana plays a lot of girls here. McAlister and Petrino had their fair share also. Stensby was probably the most productive hitting .200 as a DH followed closely by McAlister. Knauss was the least productive batting .074 in 27 at bats, the most by any DH. Lettus being the lone Sr of the group batted .143, the same for Johnson who could catch or play 1B next year. Lettus and Walker were the primaries last year hitting .188 and .200.
P Driscoll/Hood/Stensby/Achenbach/Young-Although some may think the pitching may have been a let down since Hood didn’t maintain her dominance of last year, every other pitcher picked her up and improved on themselves from last year. To Hoods credit though, her injury cut short the con schedule where she would have bolstered her stats. She missed 15 of the last 16 games, making a brief appearance in the tourney. In the con games she did pitch in, she started 6 games going 3-2 with a 1.89 era and striking out 34 in 33.1 innings. Compared to her season numbers of a 2.81 era and 83 k’s in 102.0 innings, she was definitely on the upswing. Driscoll who has steadily improved throughout her career stepped up and pitched stellar ball this year though. She lowered her ERA from 2.98 to 2.62 and upped her k’s from 33(0.4 p/in) to 71(0.68 p/in). She also maintained her stellar control by only allowing 17 walks, good for a All Time Con record of 0.16 per inning for her career. Stensby stayed about the same as last year with her ERA lowering some from 3.13 to 3.76 but she upped her k’s from 39 to 62 while pitching about 20 more innings then last year. Achenbach added another stellar arm to replace the departed Sara Stephenson and she did not disappoint leading the Griz in a couple of categories despite being a Fr. By far the least used, Young had her best season of her Grizzly career. In her previous two years, she had a 6.93 ERA in 66.2 innings with 51 k’s, most of which were pitched in ‘16 before Hood came on the scene. This year in 17.2 innings she recorded 18 k’s with a 2.77 ERA. Most memorable for me though will be her rendition of the National Anthem on Sr day. It was by far the highlight of the day.
None of our newcomers had the immediate impact that Hood had last year but they definitely shown signs of a bright future.
Tristin Achenbach P-Basically finished the year as the #3 pitcher behind Driscoll and Stensby after Hood went down with injury. Finishing with s 3.50 ERA which was good for 12th in the league, she showed some serious domination at times. Unfortunately at others, she showed some control issues. While holding the opposition to a lower batting average(.235) then any other Grizzly pitcher, she also walked and allowed homers at a higher rate then the rest. Her nearly a strike out per inning was the best, just ahead of Hood, showing that when she gets her control down, her and Hood will make a potent 1-2 combo. Her no hitter with 9 k’s in 5 innings with only one walk against Providence was the gem of her season.
Jessica McAlister 3B-She started a little slow, trying to adapt to college ball, but once she started finding her rhythm, she showed that she will be a major contributor for us for the next three years. Her previously mentioned numbers show a definite incline in production and she’s only getting started. I’d expect she stay at 3rd but she could possibly move back to catcher, her primary position in high school.
Lexi Knauss DH/PH-The only Fr to truly struggle, she collected 3 hits in 39 at bats, good for a .077 batting average playing mostly the DH. Next year she’s gonna be starting at either 2nd or short so she’s gonna have a lot more opportunity’s to develop and hopefully she can get it in line. She was an extremely productive hitter in high school and if she can reach half that level here, she should be ok. She has good speed, she just needs to catch up mentally.
Here is a list of the Big Sky teams in order of regular season standings, their con tourney finish, their national ranking, our record against them(home, away, neutral), and total points scored.
Sacramento St(1st)-#192, 1-3(1-2h, 0-1n) 10-21
Weber St(6th)-#150, 1-3(1-2h, 0-1n) 12-23
North Dakota(3rd)-#218, 0-4(0-3a, 0-1n) 3-13
Portland St(4th)-#179, 2-2(1-2h, 1-0n) 14-14
Northern Colorado(2nd)-#163, 1-2(1-2a) 10-11
Idaho St(na)-#239, 3-0(3-0a) 11-3
Southern Utah(na)-#243, 3-0(3-0a) 13-7
Here's a Stat breakdown of each player by position and a link to the 2018 stats.
https://stats.gogriz.com/sports/w-softb ... h=softball
1B Ashlyn Lyons Sr 52gs/52g 2nd Team
.341ba/.395obp/.547slg 58h 22r 32rbi 12doubles 7hr .991fielding%
2B Gabby Martinez Sr 55/55g Honorable Mention
.250/.287/.250 34h 15r 6k .972%
3B/DH Jessica McAlister Fr 40/44g
.256/.283/.331 31h 17rbi 6doubles .958%
3B/DH Tori Lettus Sr 32/46g
.159/.265/.182 14h 11rbi .912%
SS Delene Colburn Sr 55/55g 1st Team
.363/.460/.577 61h 39r 39rbi 9doubles 9hr 6sb 28bb 6k .954%
PH/DH/IF Lexi Knauss Fr 10/24g
.077/.182/.103 3h 4rbi 2sb
LF Anne Marie Petrino So 53/53g
.221/.295/.237 29h 17r 5sb .947%
CF MaKenna McGill Sr 55/55g 2nd Team
.264/.340/.305 46h 31r 6sb .987%
RF/LF Alex Wardlow Sr 37/43g
.152/.231/.152 16h 12r .895%
RF/DH Kylie Hayton So 22/44g
.214/.302/.232 12h 10r .968%(31att)
OF Katie Jo Waletzko Sr 1/34g
2h 7ab 1triple .909%(11att)
PR/OF MaKenzie Phillips Sr 5/32g
2h 12ab 5r
C/DH/1B Madison Saacke Sr 47/49g Honorable Mention
.257/.320/.300 36h 21rbi .979%
C/DH Dani Walker Sr 17/20g
.178/.339/.200 8h 10bb .989%
PH/DH/C Morgan Johnson So 4/22g
P Michaela Hood So 17gs/24g
7-8 2.81era 102.0ip 8cg 2sho 103h 83k 29bb
P Colleen Driscoll Jr 19/26g Honorable Mention
8-9 2.62era 104.1ip 6cg 3sho 104h 71k 17bb
P/DH Maddy Stensby Jr 12/20g
5-6 3.76era 85.2ip 5cg 62k 21bb
P Tristin Achenbach Fr 6/18g
4-4 3.50 58.0ip 2cg 1noH 48k 23bb
P Haley Young Sr 1/7g
1-3 2.77era 17.2ip 18k 3bb
Well this will be a much bigger section then years past due to the unprecedentedly large turnover this year. Obviously we won’t have the preseason champ title hanging over our heads which should allow us to play a little more freely. Almost all expectations will be off. The pitching will still be intact with hopefully a healthy Hood getting back to form. Stensby and Driscoll will be the only Sr’s on the team unless a late transfer comes in. Achenbach will only get better also. As for the fielding and offense, that’s anyone’s guess. Only two position starters return(McAlister and Petrino) so the defense is gonna maybe take some time to reach its 3 time con leading level. Kylie Hayton, Morgan Johnson, and Lexi Knauss will also be there, filling in roles but the rest are gonna be filled by Fr, if no late transfers come in which Coach Mel has already stated she’ll be seeking one or two. As for the Fr, Kylie Becker, a SS from Las Vegas and Kaelyn Smith, an OF’er from Polson are the most ready to play and can fill positions of need(like there’s a shortage of those). Reily Williams will be a great defensive catcher but her bat may need to play catch up. MaKenna Tjaden will have a better bat but not the defensive prowess that Reily has. Maygen McGrath will be a valuable infielder and can pitch if needed also. Local product Brooklyn Weisgram will also be valuable asset with her experience in the outfield and infield. Next year will be a serious rebuilding year but a lot of valuable experience will be gained, by coaches and players alike, and hopefully help return us to title contenders sooner then later.