Six recruits signed national letters of intent Wednesday to join the University of Montana's inaugural softball team. None of the recruits are from the Treasure State.
“Obviously, we’re really excited because it’s the pieces of the puzzle to the first class,” said head coach Jamie Pinkerton, who was hired Aug. 20 after coaching the Iowa State Cyclones. “It’s a special day first off to those ladies; they’re making a decision on where to continue their education and athletic career. On our side, they’ll be part of the first class to wear the Griz uniform, and I think there is a lot of excitement.”
Montana signed one pitcher, three infielders, one outfielder and one infield/outfield player.
Carli Riordan from Veradale, Wash., was the lone pitcher to sign with the Griz.
For the infield, Montana signed Delene Colburn from Auburn, Wash., Tori Lettus from Woodinville, Wash., and Ashlyn Lyons from Walla Walla, Wash.
Makenna McGill a native of Claremore, Okla., will play in the outfield while Gabrielle Martinez of Redlands, Calif., will switch between outfield and infield.
Lettus, whose father is a UM alumnus, was the first player to verbally commit to the Griz in September.
Wednesday was the first day national letters of intent could be signed. The signing period ends Nov. 19.
Montana will begin play in the spring of 2015 as part of the Big Sky Conference. Softball will become the ninth women's sport at UM.
Pinkerton said when recruiting players, he emphasized how they would be part of something new.
“There are a lot of programs that have been around 20-30 years,” Pinkerton said. “But we told them, you get to be the first to wear the uniform, to play in a home game in Missoula. That first team photo, that’s always going to be used for things.”
Pinkerton said what caught his eye was their athleticism. Since he's starting a team from scratch, any position is open. He said he could see Martinez at the top of the hitting lineup. Riordan has long arms that could be used to her advantage as a pitcher, and Colburn and Lettus are versatile players, he said.
Coaches will continue recruiting on Nov. 22.
Pinkerton said in November and December, the coaches will recruit on campuses and go to junior colleges in January. The team hopes to get six or seven junior college players with experience, he said.
This spring, or next fall, the team will hold tryouts on campus to fill the additional four or five positions.
Brett Berntsen is a Scorpio, and hates long walks on the beach.