Trotters look toward the future at third-place finish

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PLAINS-HOT Springs pitcher Kassidy Kinzie delivers a pitcher in a regular season game against Mission-Arlee-Charlo at Plains High School. Kinzie was one of the instrumental players in the Trotters’ quest for a championship, and eventual third-place MHSA Class B-C finish at state. (Jason Blasco/Valley Press)

Plains-Hot Springs softball coach Michelle Bangen knew her team had the capability, and after they finished third at the Montana High School Class B-C state softball tournament, her team now believes what she knows.

The Trotters, who finished third in the MHSA State softball tournament, are still a work in progress, but according to Bangen, her team got something more important: validation.

“I knew the girls had the mental toughness and fought through it (to compete for a state title,” Bangen said. “We ended up being the only team that held Huntley Project (the Class B-C state softball champions) to one run all year, and that right there was awesome to see.”

Bangen, who will enter her fourth season as the Trotters’ manager starting in 2020, has seen her program gradually progress through three seasons as a manager.

“It feels good, and I am happy with how well the program is building,” Bangen said. “Our younger (feeder) program is developing the skills and fundamentals, and by the time they get to the high school level, they are ready.”

The Plains View Softball Association, which is the feeder program for the Plains-Hot Springs softball team, continues to manufacture players like Kassidy Kenzie, Kenzie Angle, Natalie Deschamps and Brooklyn Stafford. All developed into one of the premier pitchers of MHSA Class B-C by the end of the season.

“We are starting to make a name for ourselves (throughout the state),” Bangen said. “We are building our program up, and we are not intimidated by those other programs. We have the mental toughness, and we are staying in the game mentally.”

The Plains-Hot Springs team, who will lose four players to graduation, should be formidable again next year as they try to compete with Huntley Project, a group who loses two players to graduation, and they have the cream of the crop in their conference, Florence-Carlton, who has won two of the last three MHSA Class B-C state championships.

THE LAST two seasons, the Plains-Hot Springs softball team challenged by the strength of their conference, and they overcame being in a stock-piled league that included back-to-back Montana High School state champion Florence-Carlton, a group that was in contention for a third-consecutive MHSA Class B-C state championship title.

Over the years, the Mission-Arlee-Charlo team has become one of the more difficult teams to play in the league, though the last two seasons, they’ve missed qualifying for the MHSA Class B-C state tournament.

The one aspect this year’s Montana High School Class B-C state tournament gave the Trotters is confidence, that they are now one of the elite team’s in Class B-C softball, and they can play ball with any team they face.

Moving forward a team that will lose four seniors has gained the most important phychological component in sport, as they try for a third-consecutive state apperance: confidence

“My team is finally seeing they can be just as good as any other team in MHSA Class B-C. Placing third at state was a big step for them, and they know they can compete with anyone on the field.”

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