Griz Softball Team Kicks Off Inaugural Season in New Mexico This Week

By SAM WALDORF

The Montana Griz softball team kicks off its inaugural season this Thursday in Las Cruces, N.M. The Griz will compete in a six-team tournament at the Hotel Encanto Invitational.

Montana will face New Mexico State and Texas Tech on Thursday, Texas-San Antonio on Friday, and Nebraska and Colorado State on Saturday.

“I want us to play hard and compete to the best of our ability,” head coach Jamie Pinkerton said. “If we do that, I can live with the results.”

“I want us to get better and improve on this non-conference portion of our schedule, to prepare us for Big Sky Conference play.”

Pinkerton_head_shot

UM Head Coach JamiePinkerton

Montana’s first game of the tournament will come against the New Mexico State Aggies at 4:00 p.m. The Aggies finished last season with a record of 31-23, and are the preseason favorite to win the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).

They are led by senior outfielder Staci Rodriguez, who was named the preseason player of the year. Rodriguez hit .397 in 2014, with 15 home runs and 45 RBI’s.

In the second game, the Griz will take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders. The game will be played at 6:00 p.m. The Red Raiders finished last season with a 35-19 record. Texas Tech is led by sophomore infielder Kierra Miles, who hit .310 last season, scored 28 runs, hit seven home runs and had 36 RBI’s.

On Friday, Montana will take on the University of Texas-San Antonio at 9:30 a.m. UTSA completed its 2014 campaign with a record of 24-30. USTA is led by senior Megan Low who hit 22 home runs last season, hit .388 and finished the season with 47 RBI’s. Low is a Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year.

Kenzie Cole, Montana’s only senior, said it is important for the team to focus on consistency this weekend.

“I know our team has the ability, and the drive to step up to challenge,” Cole said. “Everyone is so excited. We have been working hard, for a long time, so needless to say everyone is ready to finally get on the field.”

On Saturday, Montana’s first game will be against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at 9:30 a.m. The Cornhuskers captured their second-consecutive NCAA Regional title last season, finishing with a record of 44-18. The Cornhuskers’ catcher, Steph Pasquale, was named to the USA Softball College Player of the Year Watch List. Pasquale sat out the 2014 season with a injury, but hit .465 in 2013, hitting 15 home runs and 80 RBI’s.

Montana’s final game will be against Colorado State, at 1:30 p.m. The Rams finished last season with a record of 32-17. Colorado State is led by junior Holly Reinke, who finished last season with 20 wins on the mound, appearing in 33 games.

Last week, Montana was picked to finish seventh, out of eight teams, in the Big Sky Conference Preseason Poll. Idaho State, who won the regular season championship, was picked to finish first. Followed by Sacramento state and Northern Colorado.

“I am more concerned with our club, and our maturation than I am with where we are placed,” Pinkerton said. “We have our goals and we will focus on trying to attain our team goals.”