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Lady Hawks softball eyes postseason run

May 15—For the better parts of three months, they have been running, catching, hitting and working on the many parts of the game of fastpitch softball.

Now, with a cooperative Mother Nature, they will embark on the journey that has occupied their minds and athletic focus since early March ... playoff softball, Montana high school style.

As the recently concluded regular season showed, the competition will crank up as everyone chases the dream of a State championship.

For some, like Thompson Falls, the Divisional tournaments which begin this weekend, will serve as a measuring stick to see if they have what it takes to stand atop the victory stand in a few weeks.

Champions.

For others, the upcoming postseason will provide a kind of progress compass, a measurement of what it will take to assume the lofty perch of a state title.

For the Lady Hawks, who made it to the state finals last season in Anaconda, it will be both measuring stick and compass for this group of talented players who compiled a 16-6 record during the regular season schedule, which was all too often altered by inclement weather.

T Falls, which comes into the divisional round as an upper level seed from the West behind the long-ball specialists from Mission-Arlee-Charlo (MAC), spent the final days of the season taking on a mix of teams representative of what lies ahead.

The Lady Hawks closed out the regular schedule by routing Shelby 16-1 at a tournament in Cut Bank. T Falls won two and lost two games in the Cut Bank event, falling to powerful (13-3) Huntley Project 10-7. They beat Conrad 6-2, then were surprised by host Cut Bank 7-6.

In the highly competitive Western B-C Divisional which gets underway this Thursday afternoon in Florence (a last hour change of venue from the originally scheduled site in Frenchtown), T Falls will take on the number three seed from the south, which as of Sunday night had not been announced.

Manhattan's Lady Tigers are the top seed in the West, followed by MAC, Florence and Three Forks, the 2-3-4 teams in the latest West standings. T Falls comes in fifth in the West conference standings.

As they have for the majority of the season, the Lady Hawks will likely depend on coach Jared Koskela's "small ball" strategy, scoring runs with aggressive base running, base hits and taking advantage of their opponent's mistakes.

And they will rely on the pitching of a pair of juniors, Sarah Koskela and Olivia Fitchett, who at times this year have been masterful on the mound.

Senior Olivia Harnett leads the team in batting with a .444 average at last report. Koskela, meanwhile, leads the team in numerous offensive categories, including on-base-percentage (OBP), .593, home runs (2) and doubles (7).

Addie Traver is the team leader in runs batted in with 28, four more than Fitchett, who knocked in 24 runs.

Speedy senior MacKenzie Robinson leads the team with 13 stolen bases for the Lady Hawks, who like to run and are not opposed to employing a double and/or delayed steal to push runs across the plate.

If there was a thorn in their side this season, it is MAC, which beat T Falls in both regular season encounters, 16-4 and 9-0.

MAC's hard throwing pitcher Izzy Evans has handcuffed many batters this season with her fast ball and accuracy. She is also a long ball threat at the plate as was displayed by two round-trippers in the first win over T Falls.

The West Division field also includes powerhouse Manhattan (16-4 on the year), and Three Forks (11-3). Under the initial bracket, Manhattan and T Falls would collide in the second round if both win their opening round games.

Tournament play actually begins this Tuesday (May 14) with a play-in game presumably between Plains and Troy, in Troy.

The winner of that game moves on while the loser's season is over.

Plains, which has a very young team long on talent and short on experience, comes into the postseason with a 0-14 season mark. They played Troy last week and lost 12-2.

The Trotters have just three seniors, all solid players including Marissa Young, Jaelyn Carr and Teirainy Bellinger. Carr was often the catalyst for the offense, batting in the lead-off position.

The Plains line-up includes four freshmen and a pair of eighth graders.

Last year, T Falls won their opening game at the State finals in Anaconda, downing Shepard 12-4. They lost their next two games, to Conrad and Columbus and finished the year 14-11.