Mission-Arlee-Charlo coach Susan Weaselhead knows the competitive landscape of Montana High School Association Class B-C Western softball has increased exponentially this year.
In the league M-A-C competes in, Weaselhead and her team knows regardless of the strength of their opponent, there is always a chance their team could lose to anyone because their conference is just that stockpiled with top-tier talent.
“We have to be on our game every night,” Weaselhead said. “There is not going to be any game that is going to be an easy game and you can’t go into any game (in this division) thinking it’s going to be easy. We are going to face some top hitters in this league, and teams like who we faced this week such as Plains-Hot Springs and Florence have top hitters.”
As the Bulldogs head towards the final stretch of the regular season, they are still trying to position themselves well for a playoff run in what has become a cluttered race to get a two through four position as they prepare to enter the Divisional softball tournament May 17-18 in Anaconda.
“I think our girls are not done preparing yet (for the postseason),” Bulldogs coach Susan Weaselhead said.
M-A-C’s biggest strength, according to Plains-Hot Springs coach Michelle Bangen, is their hitters. Weaselhead mentioned that from top to bottom of the team’s lineup, they have the luxury of having players that can hit the ball, which allows them to test defenses and continue to keep pressure on the other team the entire game.
“We have the bottom of our order, our six-through-nine hitters, that can hit the ball,” Weaselhead said. “They aren’t at the bottom of the order because they can’t hit. I just had to make a lineup.”
The M-A-C Bulldogs will face a critical doubleheader series with Loyola Thursday afternoon at Mission-Arlee-Charlo, and the competitive dynamic has become a little more complicated with Loyola’s ace pitcher McKenna Bessette now eligible to play.
This week, M-A-C won some critical showdowns as they split with Plains-Hot Springs, now one of the premier teams in Western Class B-C and won eight of their first nine competitions. The Bulldogs split with them and out slugged Florence, the defending MHSA Class B-C softball champions, in a 16-14 game in which 32 runs were produced. Weaselhead referred to the victory as a “slug fest.”
Two key members of M-A-C’s team include pitcher Tomi Brazzill and Azia Umphrey.
“Tomi and Azia are getting in the mix, and they show opponents different speeds,” Weaselhead said. “That helps mix it up a little bit. If one team starts to hit off one, we just switch them up and show different speeds.”
As the Bulldogs march closer and closer to the playoffs, Weaselhead and her cabinet of assistant coaches continue to make adjustments.
In order continue to compete in the ever-changing competitive landscape of Western Class B-C softball and with the emergence of pitchers like Bassette, the cautionary tale moving forward is that anything can and will happen in the playoffs.
“We can never take anyone lightly,” Weaselhead said. “These next few practices are going to be crucial.”
Whatever the situation M-A-C softball will be ready.