‘Heads move to 1-0 on season with 2-0 win over Livingston

From the bleachers, or from your car for that matter if you’ve taken advantage of the new softball radio broadcasts offered on The Mighty 580 KANA, Anaconda’s 2-0 win over Livingston didn’t seem that impressive. But here’s a few notes that may change your thoughts just a bit …

1) Anaconda only beat a team by two compared to the 17-3 thumping they put on the Lady Rangers last year in the State A tournament, but doing so against a dominant pitcher such as Hayley Dowdell in the first game of the season was pretty impressive. And starting off with a lefty for the first game of the season, I’d say the Copperheads handled themselves pretty admirably.

2) Brooke Chapman is primed for one helluva year. She shut out a pretty good Central A Conference lineup, one that should challenge to win the conference this season. She allowed only five base runners, two by walk and three singles, and her only real jam when Alexadra Schaeffer stood on third with two outs in the third, Chapman got Dowdell to pop up to Karli King at second base to end the inning. In the seventh, Chapman allowed a lead-off single to Schaeffer, but made quick work of Dowdell, 4-hitter Meadow Ingram and Hailey Versland to end the threat and game with the gem.

Chapman’s pitch count was a little higher than she would’ve liked in the first game of the season, but seeing that her command of most of her pitches was so good during a blustery day at Charlotte Yeoman Martin Sports Complex in her 2013 maiden voyage is a great sign for the Copperheads.

3) Chapman not only has refined her work within the circle, the girl can swing the lumber as well. All three hits she had during Tuesday’s win were pounded in to left and left center field, proving she is already on top of picking out the pitches she wants to hit. In her fourth at bat, Chapman worked a five-pitch walk in the sixth nursing a 1-0 lead with runners on second and third when most 3-hitters would’ve been pressing to get the RBIs. Being that she was the pitcher, her plate discipline in that situation is more impressive.

4) Anaconda only had one error, that was due to the field condition more than anything. Center fielder Lauren Bolton charged a sharply hit line drive in the third off Schaeffer’s bat only to see the ball skip off the brown and slick grass in the outfield. Speaking with her after the game, she recognized the error and was able to laugh it off and chalk it up to a learning experience. “I shouldn’t have charged it that way,” she said. In Bolton’s defense, the mistake was one almost every fielder would’ve made in that situation. Because the grass is still dormant from the winter, it tends to be slick when coupled with the surface of the ball and how hard it was hit. Normally, healthy grass grabs the ball, which usually comes off the bat to dead center with little or even heavy top spin on this particular line drive, and creates a “hop” and slowing effect. But because there is not moisture or density to the dormant grass, the slick surface of the ball skips instead of checking up.

Sorry for the lengthy explanation, but many don’t understand how hard it is to not only judge how hard the ball is hit when it gets to the outfield, not to mention trying to judge the type of spin the ball has coming off the bat. Bolton, who earned Southwestern A All Conference honors last year, is one of the best in conference – so if she’s making that error, so are 90 percent of the other outfielders.

5) As a team, Anaconda is on top of their game as far as plate discipline. From top to bottom, the Copperhead lineup showed excellent judgement in tough situations in terms of pitch count and understanding “hitters” counts. A lot of credit goes to Livingston hurler Hayley Dowdell getting ahead of the count early, mixing up speeds and locating on the corners to every batter. But even more goes to the Copperhead batters taking pitches in the early count in every at bat in order to, over time, produce a high pitch count uncharacteristic in such a low scoring game. In the seven hits for Anaconda, only three came with seeing less than four pitches. And in only one case, that being Brooke’s first inning single to left center, every hit was with the count in Dowdell’s favor.

6) Who I’m most impressed with: Chloe Worl, Lacey Moodry and Cassandra Flores. No offense to the others in the lineup, but all three of these girls didn’t see much varsity playing time last season. For them to step in and have a positive impact right away has to have head coach Dotsie Schafer beaming with excitement. A big credit goes to the assistant coaches, JV, AAU and offseason programs for developing these players. Worl, after fouling off three straight 0-2 pitches, laid off a close outside pitch on the fifth offering, then pounded a line drive single into left in the second. Her FC in the fourth also put Delanie Chapman into scoring position in the fourth to score the first run of the game, not to mention a hard hit drive to center in the sixth. Lacey is just a fiery competitor. She gives the bottom of the order an option for contact and speed, and her aggressiveness is bar-none the best on the team. Flores, a freshman, stepped in as a defensive shortstop and had two assists including an inning-ending 6-3 put out in the fourth after ranging to her right then delivering a perfect throw to Delanie Chapman at first two steps ahead of the runner.

Good plate discipline and pitch selection will lead to great offensive numbers for the Copperheads this season, one part of the game they seem to be in 100 percent control of already.

Some things the Copperheads need to work on, in my opinion. 1) Bunting: Only Karli King’s RBI fielder’s choice that scored Lacey Moodry for Anaconda’s insurance run in the sixth was the only bunt laid down properly for the Copperheads. Being that she’s No. 2 in the lineup, the place where the best contact hitter in softball is always located, in no secret. Although she went 0-4 on the afternoon is no indication on how good each one of her plate appearances was. She did pop out in the first, but her shots in the third and fourth innings couldn’t easily fallen in. In the third, her slicing shot to right danced in the wind, but Katie Krause judged a very tough play perfect. Then, in the fourth, Jacey Schleicher robbed King of a sure base hit with a diving attempt to end what would have been at least a one-run scoring single. 2) Running: Although it wasn’t apparent due to the lack of overall base runners, Lacee Moodry’s heads-up and aggressive double (Anaconda’s only extra base hit of the game) leading off the sixth was the only time a Copperhead hitter looked for second base. And going first to third is probably the toughest part of the game to teach in high school softball, but in order to challenge the likes of Polson, Frenchtown and Belgrade for hardware at the State tournament, the Copperheads are going to have to take more chances at moving from corner to corner in order to make up for their lack of overall team speed. You aren’t going to see many hit and run plays for Anaconda this season, but what you can count on to combat that part of the game is the overall power and ability to press the gaps by the AHS lineup.

It’s going to be a great year for the Copperheads. Stay tuned …

And as always, make sure to visit iscorebaseball.com/AHSCopperheads to keep up on every game the Copperheads play, home or away.

And here’s the link to the complete box score from Tuesday’s win … AHS box score

Former Copperheads help Lady Griz to 2012-13 Big Sky championship

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Ali Hurley and Torry Hill after they helped Montana win the 2012-13 Big Sky Conference championship Saturday, March 16 in Missoula

On Saturday, Anaconda natives Ali Hurley and Torry Hill helped earn the Lady Griz a 56-43 win over Northern Colorado to earn the 2012-13 Big Sky Women’s championship title and automatic berth in next week’s NCAA Tournament at a site to be determined.

The likely place for the Lady Griz will be in the Spokane First and Second rounds played on the Campus of Gonzaga University, but Monday’s nationally televised selection show on the ESPN family of networks will unveil where their true destination is.

Hill’s statline looks pretty mundane – a 1-for-4 shooting performance good for three points with an assist and two steals – however her transformation from dynamic scoring threat into one of the Big Sky’s leading turnover to assist ratio point guards is remarkable. Through 27 minutes of play, Hill had just one turnover against heavy perimeter pressure by an obviously frustrated UNC. That the Griz shot just 27.3 percent (15-for-55) was one of the reasons her assists to turnover ratio suffered in the title game. Defensively, she was lights out. Along with a team goal to shut down the fantastic guard D’shara Strange, Hill and Co. limited the explosive Bears offense to just 15 of 47 shooting (31.9 pct.) and 2 of 13 from behind the arc.

Hurley brought her “A” game at the most important time for the Lady Griz. Relegated as a role player and key reserve off the bench for rebounding and defense, Hurley cemented herself as a resilient, reliable and key cog for the team this year. Last night, Hurley hauled in nine rebounds. Then Saturday, she grabbed seven boards dished out an assist in just 11 minutes of play.

Because of their unselfishness, both Hill and Hurley have stepped back from the more popular and glamourous scoring roles in order to do what’s best for the team. And look at the results. Both have now won two Big Sky championships and will be making their second trip into the NCAA Tournament (the last one coming in 2010-11 against UCLA in Spokane). Ali played in that loss to the Bruins while Torry was out with an ankle injury, so this trip, being that it’s Hurley’s final season with the Griz, is going to be special.

What’s special for me is their impact on girls’ basketball in Anaconda. They are forever linked to the greatness of back-to-back Class A state titles in 2008-09 for the Copperheads (Ali graduated in 2008), not to mention rising to the top by playing Division I basketball for one of the most storied coaches in women’s basketball history (Robin Selvig).

We may have to wait another 50 years to see one D-I basketball player come out of Anaconda, let alone having them being a part of a big-time conference championship team. Today, we have two.

Not too bad for these two humble and classy girls that proudly wore “Anaconda” across their chests.

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Ali cuts down the net

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Torry goofing on her net-cutting ceremony

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Ali Hurley congratulating Robin Selvig during the awards ceremony

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Ali celebrating with Big Sky Conference MVP Katie Baker after Saturday’s win

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Left to right: Jordan Sullivan, Torry Hill, Kellie Cole, Alyssa Smith, Kenzie DeBoer and Katie Baker watch the final seconds tick off the clock Saturday

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Ali Hurley shot attempt

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Torry with the low post entry

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Torry strips the ball from LIndsay Mallon

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Torry battling for a rebound

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Alyssa Smith, Kenzie DeBoer, Ali Hurley and Katie Baker – the four Lady Griz seniors – with the Big Sky championship trophy

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Ali and Kenzie

 

Copperheads help Lady Griz to 2012-13 Big Sky title

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Torry vs. Montana State in Bozeman 2012-13

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Ali vs. Southern Utah during Senior Night in Missoula 2012-13

Copperhead standouts, senior Ali Hurley and junior Torry Hill, did what Montana hasn’t done since 2009 on Thursday – help bring home the Big Sky Conference regular season crown.

After a hard-fought 59-51 win on the road at Northern Arizona, coupled with a loss by Northern Colorado to Southern Utah, the Lady Griz secured the regular season title and the right to host the postseason conference tournament next week at Dahlberg Arena.

Both are playing vital roles for the Lady Griz this season, and it’s no secret that the team’s success is due to the unselfish, team-oriented play both Hurley and Hill provide.

Check back next week when the postseason game times are confirmed.

Torry vs. Southern Utah in Missoula 2012-13

Torry vs. Southern Utah in Missoula 2012-13

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Ali vs. Montana State in Bozeman 2012-13