MISSOULA -- The Montana softball team opened its season going 4-1 over the weekend at the Big Easy Classic in Metairie, La., and continued that winning right into Monday.
The Grizzlies swept the Big Sky Conference weekly awards, with junior Tristin Achenbach earning Pitcher of the Week and sophomore outfielder Brooklyn Weisgram winning Player of the Week honors.
Achenbach appeared in four of Montana’s five games, two as a starter, two in relief, and went 3-1 with a miniscule 0.28 ERA. She allowed just one earned run in 25 innings of work.
She struck out 25 while walking four and limited opposing hitters to a .167 batting average.
Achenbach, a one-time Big Sky Pitcher of the Week last season, went 11-11 as a freshman and sophomore with an ERA of 3.79.
“She is just settled more than anything, settled and determined,” said Montana coach Melanie Meuchel. “She’s always had skill and always been good. Now she is a little more experienced at the Division I level and understands what she can do.”
Achenbach threw a complete-game five-hitter on Friday as Montana opened its season with a 3-2 victory over Central Arkansas.
Later in the day she came on in relief of starter Michaela Hood in a 2-2 game against Louisiana Tech in the bottom of the seventh. With two on and two outs, she forced an inning-ending ground out.
After Montana took a 4-3 lead in the top of the 10th, Achenbach faced another high-pressure situation in the bottom half, with runners on second and third, and nobody out.
She got a fly out to right for the first out, then fielded a comebacker to herself for the second out.
Facing Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year Lindsay Edwards, Achenbach ended the game with a strikeout.
She threw the final 4 1/3 innings against Alabama A&M on Saturday, a game Montana trailed 3-0 but rallied to win 12-3, then saved her very best for last, when the Grizzlies faced No. 18 Texas Tech on Sunday.
Achenbach went all 10 innings as Montana lost 2-1. She struck out nine and allowed five hits. Neither of the runs she gave up was earned.
In the top of the ninth in a 1-1 game, she faced runners on second and third with one out. She responded with a strikeout and ground out.
The winning run scored in the top of the 10th on an infield single.
“When you get into a flow of what you’re doing, you start to have confidence in any situation you’re in,” said Meuchel. “She really stepped up and showed what Tristin Achenbach is all about.
“She really set a tone for us, and her teammates played really well behind her. It was a collective unit that helped her get this award, and she helped herself as well.”
Weisgram was one of a number of players who could have been nominated for Player of the Week honors.
Cami Sellers batted .400 and drove in four. Maygen McGrath hit three home runs and had a team-high seven RBIs. Jessica McAlister and Morgan Johnson both had a pair of home runs, with Johnson driving in six.
Weisgram batted .438, had two doubles and two home runs, and scored a team-high five runs. And she made some game-changing plays in center, where she made five starts.
“She had a good weekend, as did a lot of players on our team. Without the collective unit of our team playing really well, I don’t think individual performances get rewarded,” said Meuchel.
Weisgram got the season off to a blistering start, going 3 for 3 in Montana’s opener against Central Arkansas with a pair of doubles.
She had the game-winning hit in the bottom of the sixth when her double to right-center scored pinch runner Jaxie Klucewich from first.
Weisgram went 2 for 3 in Montana’s 9-1 win over Jackson State, hitting one of the Grizzlies’ program-record five home runs.
She opened the scoring in Sunday’s loss to the now 5-0 Red Raiders when she hit a solo shot in the bottom of the fifth.
In the top of the sixth she made a defensive play that extended the game to extra innings.
With the bases loaded and one out, preseason all-American Karli Hamilton singled to center to drive in the tying run. Weisgram made sure it remained just a one-run play when she threw out the potential go-ahead run at the plate.
“She had some defensive plays -- a diving play, throwing a kid out at the plate -- and a couple home runs and a couple big at-bats that got us going,” said Meuchel.
“She just looked determined, and I think that was just feeding off the rest of her teammates as well.”
Montana won four of five games at the tournament, giving the Grizzlies their best start in program history.
And the wins came through solid, all-around play for this early in the season. Montana had a team ERA of 1.11 and committed just three errors. And 19 of the Grizzlies’ 35 hits went for extra bases, including 11 home runs.
“We gained some fans down in the Bayou, I’ll say that, with how hard we played, what we were able to put on the field and the way we represented Griz Nation,” Meuchel said.
“We were happy with our first weekend but we weren’t necessarily satisfied with the outcome, which is a good thing. We felt like we could win any game we played.”
Montana will travel to Las Vegas this week for the UNLV Marucci Desert Classic, with games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday against the host school, Utah Valley and Weber State.