GREAT FALLS – The Great Falls High softball team came so close to a championship last year, losing to rival Great Falls CMR in the state title game. But this year the Lady Bison are more focused on the task at hand, and are more experienced. The team returns six starters this year, which helps in trying to revamp for another state title attempt.
“Staying focused in practice and in games,” said junior second baseman Kylie Stoll. “Probably bringing up our intensity a little bit more in the beginning and keep it through the end of the game. Starting hard from start to finish.”
“We’ve just got to play the game. We’ve got to have good pitching, which I think we’re going to have. Hitting and defense is going to be key,” said head coach Mike Coleman. “We’ve been working hard on the hitting and the defense is looking pretty good. We just have to put it together. You never know, you could have all the talent in the world, but if they don’t play well together, then it doesn’t turn out right. But these girls all get along and so far in practices when we’ve been outside the past few days, it’s been looking pretty good.”
Of those starters returning, perhaps one of the most important is pitcher Erin Hocker. With CMR’s Tristin Achenbach now gone, Hocker has a great chance to solidify herself as the best pitcher in Class AA. The Great Falls High senior ace has been working on her stuff this offseason, and the rest of the state better watch out.
“(Hocker) is throwing even better than last year. She’s throwing the ball harder, the ball still moves to all her intended spots. She’s doing real well, I think she’s going to have a really good year,” said Coleman. “Hopefully we can back her up with some bats and some defense, too. We also have Anna Toon, she’s a sophomore that can throw the ball really hard. So we’re hoping between the two of them that we can help them out a little bit and have a good year.”
“I worked on a lot of things. Always trying to get better, that’s my biggest thing. I’ve been working on all my different pitches, trying to get more movement, trying to increase my speed this year,” said Hocker. “Other than that, it’s pretty much the same thing, keep working hard and play for the team.”
As the season begins, the Lady Bison can’t get ahead of themselves. As talented and experienced as this roster looks on paper, it won’t mean anything if the team can’t mesh well together. There are a lot of good teams in the AA, and these girls will get plenty of chances to prove that they can be a force again this year.
“We’re pretty pumped this season, we’re ready to go. We have to work hard of course, always,” said Hocker. “Have that mentality that we are a strong team, but we have to not let let any teams get to us and take them for granted. Every team is good here, so just keep on fighting.”