(Editor’s note: Story by Montana Sports Information)
MISSOULA – Montana freshman Maygen McGrath was named the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week on Monday after hitting .471 with four extra-base hits in five games over the weekend at the Troy Cox Classic in Las Cruces, N.M.
She becomes the first freshman in program history to earn Big Sky Player of the Week honors.
Sara Stephenson earned Big Sky Pitcher of the Week honors as a freshman in 2016. Michaela Hood received the same honor twice as a freshman in 2017.
McGrath, of Salem, Ore., had a hit in her first collegiate game, Montana’s 3-0 shutout of Santa Clara at the NorCal Kickoff, and has been making her presence in the lineup felt ever since.
She leads the Grizzlies with a .433 batting average through 10 games, with at least one hit in eight of those 10 games. Four times the shortstop, who has primarily been batting in the No. 4 spot in the lineup, has had multiple-hit games, with three of those coming at the Troy Cox Classic.
“It was pretty nerve-racking those first games of the season. It probably took two games before I felt like I was settled in,” said McGrath, who played club with the Northwest Bullets, on which she was surrounded by future Division I players.
“It wasn’t a huge jump when I got to Montana. It was more the label of going from club ball to college softball that was very nerve-racking.”
After going hitless in Montana’s opener in Las Cruces, against San Jose State, McGrath went on a tear. Over the Grizzlies’ final four games, she went 8 for 14.
Her big moment of the weekend came on Saturday afternoon, against New Mexico State. With Montana trailing 3-1 and with two outs in the top of the seventh, Maddy Stensby singled up the middle.
Up walked McGrath, who deposited one over the fence in left-center for her first collegiate home run. More important, it pulled the Grizzlies even with the Aggies.
“I was just trying to get a base hit and keep it going. I had no idea. I just started running,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I hit it very hard. Then all of a sudden it was over the fence.”
Montana would lose in the bottom of the seventh on a walk-off home run, but McGrath’s round-tripper had triggered something in her.
Against Texas State on Sunday morning, McGrath went 3 for 4 with three doubles, first to left, then to center, then to right-center, the spray chart of a batter in the zone.
“It was very relieving to get that first home run out of the way,” McGrath said. “It allowed me to settle in at the plate. I felt more comfortable and relaxed and more confident in myself and my swing.”
With McGrath leading the way, Montana is batting .268 as a team, with 23 extra-base hits. The Grizzlies have yet to be shut out, only the second time in program history they’ve been able to make that claim through 10 games.
Eighteen errors, which have led to 17 unearned runs, have contributed to the team’s 1-9 start, as has the team’s 4.85 ERA.
Pitching and defense have been strengths for Montana over the years and were expected to be what the Grizzlies could rely on this season. Those two elements of the game will come around.
“I feel like we have a solid team,” said McGrath. “It’s just a matter of getting our defense and offense both working in each game, rather than one working one game and the other working the next game.
“It’s just going to be working together as a team and putting everything together. Once we do that, we’ll have a pretty strong team.”
Montana will travel to California later this week for the Silicon Valley Classic.