Sometimes you have to take two steps forward and one step back when you’re rebuilding a high school sports program.
That’s what is happening at Thompson Falls, which enters its second year of the school’s rejuvenated softball program. And it’s difficult to get in quality practices when workouts are relegated to the school gymnasium.
After their first games of the 2019 season were cancelled due to lingering snow on the ground, the Lady Hawks are scheduled to open the season this Saturday, April 6. It’s a familiar foe in the opener as T-Falls faces Florence-Carlton on the road. Game times for the divisional doubleheader are 3 and 5 p.m.
“We open with the state champs, again,” T-Falls head coach Jared Koskela said. “We did that last year.”
SPEAKING OF last year, the Lady Hawks posted a record of 3 wins and 15 losses. They lost a play-in game to Troy 16-14 in the battle for a divisional tournament berth.
This year’s division is the same as last season, with one exception. Ennis/Garrison replaces Drummond, which will not field a team this season. Also in the division with T-Falls are Florence-Carlton, Plains/Hot Springs, Mission/Charlo/Arlee, Deer Lodge, Anaconda and Troy.
T-Falls began the rebuilding process last spring after not fielding a team in 2017. The Lady Hawks’ got outdoors to practice sooner than many teams as a dozer was used to scrape most of the snow off the field, and “the sun melted a lot of it,” Kosela said.
The Lady Hawks have 15 players out for the sport, compared to just a dozen last season.
T-FALLS LOST just one senior from last year’s squad, but some other players did not come out for the sport. Koskela has six returnees from the 2018 team. “We had a few spots that were first-time players,” the coach said. “We had a bunch of girls who were inexperienced.”
Good pitching is always a key in fast-pitch softball, and leading the way are junior Kelsey Frank and sophomore Faith Frields. Both are right-handed throwers; there are no left-handers on the team.
“We were extremely inaccurate,” Koskela said of the T-Falls pitching last season. However, Frank and Frields attended summer and winter camps and were in open gyms to improve their accuracy.
“Confidence is definitely going to be much improved. We’ll go into games not scared as often as we did last year,” Koskela said of the team. “They’re hard workers.”
Melania Goodman, who gets the start in right field, is the lone senior on the squad.
Behind the plate will be sophomore Riley Wilson. Around the infield are Belle Cooper or Sarah Detlaff at first base, Frields at second and Addi Lane at third. Jody Detlaff is a probable shortstop. Brooke Bowlin is a utility infielder.
In the outfield to begin the season will be Goodman along with Danni ValHuss in left and Addi Lane in center.
Koskela is looking for more punch at the plate this season, as the Lady Hawks had no home runs in 2018. “The more confidence that will come around the better the contact will be,” the coach said. “I’m optimistic we’ll have some power in middle of our lineup.”
He believes team speed is an area of strength this season.
After opening day Saturday at Florence, T-Falls will play doubleheaders April 13 at Eureka and April 15 at Mission. The home openers are April 18 against Deer Lodge at 4 and 6 p.m.