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Hawks start season with a pair of wins

The Thompson Falls Lady Hawks started the softball season on fire by defeating their first two competitors with the mercy rule, dispatching Troy and Plains in a week's time and in five innings or less.

The Lady Hawks defeated Troy 12-2 in five innings last Tuesday in the first game of the season.

Oliva Fitchett came out on fire over the Lady Trojans, getting a no hitter three person strikeout in the first inning. The Lady Hawks were able to keep their focus and the bases loaded during the bottom of the first, running in an incredible seven points. Going into the second Fitchett was unable to pull another no hitter, and Troy was able to sneak in two runs over the Lady Hawks. The Lady Trojans were able to keep the soaring Lady Hawks to no runs in the third inning. But Thompson kept their intensity going into the fourth inning, once again keeping Troy to a no hitter inning. With the Lady Hawks back up to bat they found themselves sneaking in three more runs before the inning was over. Troy was able to get batters on the bases but was unable to get any more runs before being struck out. While the Lady Trojans tried to keep the Lady Hawks scoreless in the final inning, the quick footed Thompson team was able to slide into home two more times to secure the Pirks Place win.

On Thursday, the Hawks crushed the Trotters at Plains 29-1 in four innings, accumulating 14 runs in the fourth inning alone.

"We started slow but eventually got the timing down at the plate," said head coach Jared Koskela, who took his team to the state tournament last year. "A few players played in spots they are not used to as we need to be more versatile to survive in this league," he said of the game against Plains.

Thompson Falls began with three runs in the first inning, starting when junior Sarah Koskela tripled, sending senior Olivia Harnett home for the first run. In the bottom of the first, Plains senior Marissa Young crossed the plate off a single by sophomore Taylor Saner. Though the Trotters were able to get on base, that was it for Plains. Lady Hawk pitcher Sarah Koskela chalked up 10 strikeouts and teammate Annalise Fairbank had two.

The Trotters made a final attempt to climb out of the mercy rule hole in the bottom of the fourth. Fairbank walked sophomore Randie Kilgore, who quickly stole second. The pitcher then walked eighth-grader Tia Bellinger, the Trotter pitcher. Both stole a base to set up for scoring. At the plate, Young had two strikes on her when she popped one up to end the game.

"They did great for the first game of the year. They all got the first game jitters out," said Kati Mitchell, the Trotter head coach for four years. She is assisted by Jon Zigler and Madison Elliott, a 2022 Plains graduate who played softball three years in high school. "We're a young team and we're learning," said Zigler, who coached youth baseball for several years. "We have a lot to work on," added Zigler, who's in his first year of coaching the Trotters.

"It's not getting back at T-Falls, but accomplishing improvements and learning from this game for the next. Our hopes are to show ourselves that we can better ourselves with the four C's, which is our mantra this year - commitment, confidence, concentration, and composure," Coach Mitchell said. She added that they'd like to be more competitive when the Trotters face them again at Thompson Falls on May 2.

"We have quite a few new team members that either have never played softball or don't really know the game in depth," said Mitchell, but she said her players nevertheless continued cheering and showed a positive attitude the entire game regardless of errors or the score. The Trotters got only two hits, Young and Saner, who had an RBI by hitting in Young. Bellinger pitched the entire four innings and picked up one strikeout.

Lady Hawk Olivia Fitchett, a junior, and Olivia Harnett led the team in hits with four apiece. Sophomore Brooklyn Cork, Fitchett and Koskela got one double each, but each player had an RBI with Fitchett leading the team with five of them. The Thompson Falls girls started practicing on March 11 - the same day Plains began practice - and have only one new player, freshman Alayna Hockhalter, said Koskela, who is assisted by Julie Detlaff, Lacey McCormick and Karli Thomas.

Despite two easy victories, Koskela is skeptical about returning to state this year. They had 21 players last season and have only 14 this year. "Getting to state was huge for our program. Of course we want to make the same noise, but must take each game at a time," said Koskela. "We are not necessarily rebuilding, but younger girls need to work well with the more experienced ones to be successful," he said. The next home game for the Lady Hawks is Friday, April 19, against Whitefish.

Mitchell said that her girls will continue to work in order to get a better understanding of the game, reducing their errors on defense and focusing on advancing their hitting game. "I have a lot of hopes for our girls. We are having a blast working together and learning every day," said Mitchell. "This will be a great year of softball to build on what skills we have and come together to play the game. The girl's attitudes are great and that is a huge difference from the last few years, which we are excited about," she said.

The Trotters will be traveling to Missoula Friday and Saturday. Their next home game is scheduled for Saturday, April 20, at 1 p.m., followed by a faceoff at home on Friday, April 26, at 1 p.m. Senior Day is scheduled for Saturday, April 27, with a doubleheader, first at noon against Anaconda and then at 4 p.m. against Deer Lodge.

 

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