MISSOULA — Montana freshman Brooklyn Weisgram spent her high school and travel softball days batting in the middle of the order, trying to crush balls as hard as she could most at-bats.
So when the Missoula Sentinel grad was moved to the lower third and then the upper third of the order for the Grizzlies, she had to not only adapt to a new approach, but had to do so while acclimating to a higher, more complex level of pitchers.
Now 31 games into college, Weisgram is adding an offensive boost to a young Montana team in a new role. But before she could do that, the center fielder had to learn to trust herself.
“I think the hardest part coming in was just getting the mental side down of, ‘Yeah, I am good enough to be here. That’s why I’m here,’” Weisgram said after Montana completed a three-game sweep of Nevada with a 4-3 walk-off win on Saturday at Grizzly Softball Field.
Weisgram came into Saturday’s game ranked ninth in the Big Sky Conference with a .449 slugging percentage and 11th with a .308 batting average. She’s also one of just 12 qualified hitters and three freshmen in the league who was batting over .300.
Weisgram has found a spot in the No. 2 hole in the batting order over the past 12 games, focusing on getting on base any way possible. During that stretch, she’s been hitting .351 (13 for 37), has reached base in 11 of the 12 games and has had three of her four multi-hit games.
“She’s a very competitive kid,” Montana head coach Melanie Meuchel said. “She’s very determined. She likes challenges and battles. I don’t think that she ever gives away a battle at the plate. She might not always win it, but she’s always in it. She has a little spice to her, and it really shows some consistency to the rest of our team.”
Before moving up to the No. 2 spot, Weisgram spent the first 19 games batting sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth. While in those slots, her batting average bottomed out at .091 through four games, got up to .306 but fell back to .273 before she moved to the second spot.
Weisgram had to work on her timing at the plate and to a rise ball from college pitchers that actually rises, unlike in high school. In search of more consistency at the plate, she discovered it by having a confident approach at the top of the order.
“Before, when I was lower (in the order) watching the girls in front of me, it was, ‘Oh, if they can’t get on, how am I even going to get on,’” Weisgram said. “So now it’s just, ‘Get up and do your thing. Be you. Don’t overthink it.’ I think I was just really overthinking it.”
Disciplined at the plate, Weisgram’s 11 walks are tops on the team. Her 25 hits are tied for fourth and her 10 RBIs are tied for third most. On the basepaths, she’s second on the team with 15 runs scored and is one of only four players with a stolen base.
One major area Weisgram has had to work on is her bunting, something she rarely did in high school. Her five sacrifice bunts are tied for fourth most in the conference.
“I never really trusted my speed in high school,” Weisgram said. “I was never really the fastest girl, so I was like, ‘Eh, I’m not fast enough to bunt.’ I’ve learned more and more to trust my speed and feel I’ve gotten faster, too, here working with our trainers and staff.”
Meuchel knew Weisgram could be an offensive contributor coming out of high school. She likes her in the No. 2 spot because of her versatility to get on base, move a runner over with a bunt or show off her power if teammates are on base when the Griz get back to the top of the order.
Weisgram’s contributions, along with those of other underclassmen, have been much needed for a team that graduated 11 seniors from last year. She’s one of six freshmen and 10 underclassmen on the 16-player roster, and she’s one of three players to start every game.
“It’s just one of those things that when you trust yourself you can be in the game every pitch,” Meuchel said. “From there, you’re going to have the ebb and flow of the game, but she doesn’t have real high highs and low lows. She just is pretty consistent for us.”
Montana 4, Nevada 3
Montana sophomore Cami Sellers knows she’s far from the fastest person on the team, but that didn’t stop her from trying to steal home.
With the Griz and Nevada locked in a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the seventh inning, Sellers raced from third base on a one-out wild pitch. The ball didn’t get too far away from the catcher, but Sellers got a good jump and beat the pitcher to the plate to give the Griz their second walk-off win in two games.
“I just saw the opportunity and I took it,” Sellers said. “I was like, ‘I need to get this done for my team.’ So, I just ran my butt off.”
Montana senior pitcher Maddy Stensby kept the Griz in the game by throwing three innings of two-hit, scoreless softball in relief of Tristin Achenbach. A designated player who hits, it was Stensby’s first game pitching since March 10, and she felt her changeup was key in her return.
“I think not pitching for a while really helped me because before I had struggled with attacking batters. I kind of threw balls around in the zone a lot,” Stensby said. “I think being out of it and getting me to want to pitch again and want to be in there doing something with aggression and intention helped a lot.”
The Griz never trailed in the game, taking a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a Maygen McGrath RBI double and a Jessica McAlister RBI infield single. They upped their lead to 3-1 on Sellers’ RBI fielder’s choice in the second inning.
After that, Montana managed just three hits against relief pitcher Kali Sargent in 4 2/3 innings, but Sellers’ lead-off double in the bottom of the seventh started the rally of an error, walk and wild pitch.