BUTTE — First-year skipper Chris Lamb will be coaching a team with no high school softball experience prior to this season.
“In 2019, our team was really senior heavy,” said Lamb. “And so when those seniors left, we, of course, the next year didn't have a season because of COVID. So this year we're a very young team.”
Before the Wardens' first game, a loss to Mission, the Deer Lodge softball team had just three on-field practices.
“Our first week we spent practicing in the gym because of the snow,” Lamb said.
Lamb, however, sees the upside in his team and added that the players have been coachable. Longtime assistant coach Clint Stevenson has also remained on the staff to help Lamb.
“Well, they're young, but they're athletic,” he said. “They're athletes and they're learning. They’re full of potential.”
On a team with no juniors, Emily Pentland is the lone senior. Pentland will be doing some pitching for Deer Lodge this season. Taryn Lamb and Taylor Stevenson will round out the rotation.
“We've been getting some help from the former coach, Joe Gray,” Chris Lamb said. “He's been coming in and helping with some pitching practice.”
Kelly Lamb is also a capable pitcher, but she is also the Wardens’ catcher so she probably won’t see a ton of innings in the circle.
Chris Lamb observed that along with perfecting timing at the plate, instilling basic softball IQ will be one of the most important lessons early on. Little things such as cutoffs, position awareness and anticipation are perfected through hours of practice and innings of real, live game situations.
Track and field
With an extensive background coaching volleyball and basketball, Jody Walker is taking on a new challenge. She will be guiding the Deer Lodge track and field team through the unusual 2021 season.
“I've coached before, never track, but coached volleyball and basketball; varsity, JV, junior high, pretty much all levels of basketball and volleyball, but never track,” said Walker.
Before last week's Gene Hughes Invitational in Hamilton, the Wardens had a very limited number of practices because of the weather.
“We've been down to the track probably only two, maybe three times,” Walker said. “I think the throwers come down more but we just haven't ran because it's too cold to run.”
Senior Brody Freeman is someone to watch for representing the Wardens.
“He ran track in his freshman and sophomore years and he throws javelin,” Walker said. “He's going to be in our relay 4x100, but I think probably jav is his best event.”
Aiden Thompson will also be providing senior leadership for Deer Lodge.
“He is a long-distance runner,” Walker said. “I think Aiden made it to state his freshman year in one of those events, but he runs the mile, 800, high jumps, throws discus and shot. I think this is his first year doing sound shot, though. So he's going to be a good long distance runner and I think he's going to be a great high jumper, too.”
Tucker Smith, also a senior, will be the Wardens’ most experienced thrower.
Deer Lodge’s next meet is the Dave Tripp Memorial in Polson on April 9.
Matthew Kiewiet is the sports editor for the Montana Standard and sports betting columnist for 406MTSports. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @mattkiewiet406.