HELENA — Helena High softball player Vanessa Walsh is accustomed to jumping from one sport to the next throughout the school year and the summer.
Walsh, a three-sport athlete for the Bengals who plays volleyball in the fall and basketball in the winter, has transitioned to what she considers the sport she excels at the most in the spring: softball.
"I think I would have to say my best sport would have to be softball, just because I've been playing (softball) all of the time, and I spent time with my family playing it," Walsh said.
Walsh, who just finished a season in which she helped Helena to its third-consecutive Class AA state basketball title, says she enjoys the responsibility of balancing three sports throughout the school year.
"It keeps me busy," Walsh said.
Walsh, who recalls playing softball with her father and older brother in the back yard of their house, said she's always had an affinity for the game.
"I remember we were always in the backyard with foam bats, playing backyard baseball at the time, and it developed into something more competitive," Walsh said. "As long as I can remember, we were playing baseball."
Bengals coach Ryan Schulte said Walsh brings a toughness to his team.
"(Third base) is a position that requires just some straight toughness, and Vanessa certainly has all of that," Schulte said. "She is a tough player, and with that work ethic of hers, many times she spends time before and after practice and continues to try to get ground balls. She works on the tee and things like that."
Walsh started gaining exposure to competitive recreational league baseball as early as the second grade and then began to jump from one travel team to the next to continue to improve, preparing to excel at the high school level.
Walsh had an immediate impact on the Bengals' program as a freshman.
"Vanessa came on as a freshman, and during her first game, played on the field and made two great catches, had a double and a homer," Schulte said. "Vanessa always brought consistency and the ability to change positions. She has gotten better at many things, including skill work and mechanics since the moment she stepped onto the varsity field."
Walsh played every position while in the upper-grade levels including infielder and catcher before settling into third base.
"When I was on the JV during my freshman year, I played the outfield position, and I also started at a right field as a sophomore before I found the position I loved," Walsh said. "I started falling in love with the position, and the infield is where I saw most of my last year and am expecting to see my time this year."
Walsh feels the winning mentality crosses over onto the softball diamond, after all her basketball success.
"We won the basketball championship Sunday, and Monday I was off to my first day of softball tryout," Walsh said. "We have the same expectations entering the softball season as we do the basketball season."
Walsh, whose Bengals finished 12-10 last year, hopes to improve on last year's successful season. Helena finished fourth in their conference.
"We have the same expectations as we do in basketball, and everyone goes out there and works hard," Walsh said. "The rest of the softball girls transition from one sport to the next, and we all adapt, and are back to normal (quickly)."
Walsh does admit the high expectations that accompany her basketball team's success also translate over into the spring season.
"I think (winning a championship in basketball) gives all of the girls a sense of what it takes to win," Walsh said. "We help keep it going in every sport, and the requirements it takes to win. It gives a desire to be successful."
Striving for more
That desire to be successful has Walsh and company striving for more as they get ready for their season opener.
"(We weren't happy) with the way softball ended last year," Walsh said. "We weren't satisfied, and our team put tons and tons of extra time in the batting cage in the offseason. We keep finding a way to improve and be as successful as possible. I expect our team to be cohesive, have good chemistry, be friends and find all of the little things we need to do to succeed."
During Walsh's sophomore season, she was second-team all-conference, and was a second-team all-state, during her junior season.
She isn't the type of player to rest on her laurels. As she enters her senior season, she wants more and hopes to be a crucial part towards propelling the Bengals to a state tournament appearance.