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Stevensville softball gaining ground

Senior Callie Lendman of Stevensville plays intensely no matter if it is in practice or in a game. Here, Sammi Merwin runs from first to second during a recent practice. Jean Schurman photo.

Four years ago, when Callie Lendman, Makayla Davids and Sam Hambrick first donned the uniform of the Yellowjacket softball team, the program hadn’t seen much success. Coach Joey Wark was in his third year of coaching but had yet to see much success in the faltering program. There were barely enough players to field a team.
Fast-forward to 2017 and the resurgence of Yellowjacket softball is in full swing. This year, Wark had 26 come out for the team and actually had to cut down to 17 players. “They all can play varsity and it creates some competition for the positions.”
The completion, along with a renewed commitment to playing the best they possibly can, has paid off. The team will be making the long trek to Sidney next week to play in the Class A state softball tournament. It is the first time in 17 years they have made it to state.
Wark said he saw some potential last year when his team. “It’s the same team, but last year we had a lot of close games, but just couldn’t finish the game for the win.”
To change this, the team has worked on several things he said, most notably, accountability and leadership. A core group of players, selected by their teammates, are the leaders of the team. They meet with the coaches every week and discus team dynamics, right down to who should room with whom on the road. The leaders encourage each other and their teammates on the field and off. Many play on travel teams in the summer and have become very close friends.  But sometimes, just like in any family, problems pop up. Wark said the leaders have helped in diffusing these ‘problems’ before they really do become a problem.
The team looks at other successful programs to see what they do. They took a trip to see the Lady Griz softball team play earlier this spring. But they didn’t just watch the game; they watched how the team warmed up, and how the team acted in the dugout, understanding that the entire team benefits when everyone is focussed and working for success.
Davids, who plays shortstop, said the ‘Jackets are working well as a team. “The girls are learning mental and physical toughness. We’re focussing and working as a team. We’ve changed a few people’s minds.”
Wark said Davids has really turned her game around. She worked all winter in the batting cages and after not even getting a hit in her earlier years, is now batting .500. Another hitter is catcher Dani Trangmoe. He said she’s an outstanding behind the plate and hits well, so well that she hasn’t been struck out all season. Freshman ‘Syd’ Sydnee Paul, and sophomores Mikayla Newman and Haley Kampka, and Lendman round out the top hitters.
Sarah Morrison is the pitcher for the team. Wark said she has done an outstanding job this season and has probably pitched in 90 percent of the games. Freshman Joey Oyler is the reliever. Although both are young, they have had several seasons of experience on travel teams.
In their game against Butte Central on May 5th, Wark said Stevensville’s offense started picking up. Although the Yellowjackets lost, 16-14, they never stopped hitting and making runs. Then, on May 9th, against Corvallis, the team came out tight and not playing as well as they could. But they worked through it and came back to take the 17-7 win. He was pleased they played through the slump at the beginning of the game.
Assistant coach Chris Newman is the coach of the Sparks softball team, the team that many of the Yellowjackets play on in the summer. Lacy McCormick played on the stevensville teams back in the ‘good old days’; and Dave Lockman who began as a scorekeeper for the team but is now an assistant, round out the coaching staff. During a practice skirmish, each coach was paying attention to different parts of the game. While McCormick was helping with batting stances, Lockman was working on defense with the first baseman and the outfield. Newman was working with the infield and Wark was pitching. There was a lot of banter and catcalling going on but the focus was there as well as the fire to get the hit, or the out, and make each other better.
“These are wonderful girls to be around,” said Wark. “They are the reason I coach.”
Davids summed it up for the players, “We’re proud to be where we are right now.”

One Response to Stevensville softball gaining ground
  1. Lacey Knudson McCormick
    May 18, 2017 | 1:21 am

    That’s Sammi Merwin on first in the picture.

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