Monday, July 15, 2024
70.0°F

Two Lady Hawks selected for softball classic

by CHUCK BANDEL
Valley Press | July 10, 2024 12:00 AM

The honors keep rolling in for a pair of Thompson Falls softball players.

Juniors Sarah Koskela and Olivia Fitchett were recently selected to play in the 11th annual Veterans Memorial Softball Classic along with a crop of the best softball players in Montana. 

The tournament, which will be played July 26-27 at the Belgrade (Montana) Softball Complex and features teams representing the US Navy, Marines, Air Force, Army and Coast Guard. 

The teams are named in honor of a fallen member of each branch of the US military and will play up to 12 games over the weekend.  Koskela and Fitchett, both seniors-to-be at Thompson Falls, were named to the Class B all-state team earlier this year and were instrumental in leading the Lady Hawks to a berth in the State B-C championship tournament this past May in Billings. 

T Falls head softball coach Jared Koskela said the two Lady Hawks’ players were among 60 top players from across the state to be selected to the team.  They are the second and third players chosen for the Belgrade Classic.  The first T Falls player named to the team was Alivia McCormick. 

Coach Koskela was coach of the Navy team in the 2022 tournament and guided the squad to the tournament title that year. 

Koskela was understandably proud of the two Lady Hawks. 

“Coaching them has been quite the pleasure,” he said. “When you have two players who love the game and play it like they do, everything falls into place and the coaching part gets really easy.”

Both players were among the top in several offensive categories for the Lady Hawks this past year as they compiled a 19-9 overall record and qualified for their second straight state championship tournament. 

Fitchett and Koskela were the top pitchers on the staff as well. 

“Olivia has a unique pitching delivery and spin on the ball that other teams struggle to make contact with,” Koskela said. “She struck out well over 120 batters this past season, even with Sarah taking 1/3 of the innings on the mound.” 

Sarah has emerged as a topflight catcher for her play behind the plate. The two give the Lady Hawks a formidable pitcher catcher combination. 

“These two have literally been the 1-2 punch teams need to be successful,” coach Koskela said. “Otherwise, you see teams pitch into the dirt and the catcher misses it. Ultimately runners advance and score without their team getting a hit.”

Sarah is known for her solid defensive skills behind the plate.  She also led the team in batting with a .457 average, just ahead of Fitchett who hit at a .402 clip this past year.  Together, the pair combined for 55 RBIs. 

Having both players named to the Air Force team is a bit of a rarity, coach Koskela said.  

“It is interesting they were both put on the same team,” he said. “Usually, the tournament separates teammates. 

Other players with local ties who were selected for the Classic include Morgan Pavlik from State champion Manhattan, who is the daughter of T Falls alumni Kelly Deal.  Also named was Gatorade Player of the Year Ella Farrell, who played for Glacier High of Kalispell this past season.  Both of those players are also on the Air Force squad. 

Opening ceremonies for this year’s tournament, which is being held several weeks earlier than normal to avoid conflicting with the opening of Montana State’s football camp, will be held at 6 p.m. Friday.  A home run derby will follow the opening ceremony. 

The Air Force team will begin tournament play Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. against the Army team.  The winner of that game advances to a semi-final game Saturday morning against the winner of a game between Navy and the winner of a game between the Coast Guard team and the Marines. 

VFW Post 12112 is the host of the tournament.

    Olivia Fitchett winds and fires during a state tournament game in Billings this past May. Fitchett and Sarah Koskela were named to the Belgrade Veterans Memorial Classic July 26-27 in Belgrade. (Chuck Bandel/VP-MI)