Griz softball signs ‘Original Six’

MISSOULA — Jamie Pinkerton, who was hired in August to take the vision of a softball program at Montana and turn it into a team that begins playing next year, has signed six prep players to National Letters of Intent during the NCAA’s early signing period.

The signing of the Original Six is the first step toward building a team that will begin playing its nontraditional season in just 10 months. The rest of the 2014 class will be added during the late signing period that opens in April.

“This is only six players, so we still have some work to do with the class,” Pinkerton said. “Obviously it’s going to come in two parts, with this early signing period and the late signing period in the spring.

“The ’14 class worried me, because I didn’t know what would be available. To find athletes like this who were still available was a pleasant surprise. I was happy with the quality of athlete and the versatility of player we were able to get.”

Signing last week were Delene (DELL-a-knee) Colburn, a middle infielder from Auburn, Wash.; Tori Lettus, a middle infielder from Bothell, Wash.; Ashlyn Lyons, a first baseman from Walla Walla, Wash.; Gabby Martinez, a second baseman/outfielder from Redlands, Calif.; MaKenna McGill, a centerfielder from Claremore, Okla.; and Carli Riordan, a right-handed pitcher from Spokane Valley, Wash.

“I wanted to get the best players we could find while building up the middle with players who are going to give us some flexibility,” Pinkerton said. “I think (assistant coach Melanie Meuchel) and I were able to do a pretty job of that.

“All of them have their story of why they were still available, from an injury that kept them off the recruiting radar to a kid committing to a Big 10 program that later underwent a coaching change.”

Noticeably missing from the group is any signee from the state of Montana. That was not by design. Instead it was a result of when Pinkerton was hired. He arrived in Missoula in early September, well after the window to watch in-state players had closed.

“We were only able to see three Montana kids play this fall, so we’ll have to wait until the spring high school season,” said Pinkerton, whose preferred roster size is 18 players. “If there are any Division I kids out there, we’ll sign them during the April signing period. That’s been my plan the whole time.

“I want Montanans, because in-state kids understand the Griz pride and tradition, but we just haven’t had access to that talent yet. It’s not that we’re ignoring it. We’ve just haven’t had an opportunity to see it.”

Lettus, who is a senior at Woodinville High, will have the distinction of being the program’s first commitment, and she wasn’t a tough sell. Her dad, Ray, is a Montana native and UM graduate, and her older sister, Sara, is a 2007 graduate of the university who still lives in Missoula.

Western Montana is also home to a number of Lettus’s aunts, uncles and cousins. “When I start school next fall, it will feel like I’m coming home,” she said.

GoGriz.com will provide a more in-depth look at each of the signees over the next week.

“I think they are going to be solid,” Pinkerton added. “I wouldn’t be surprised if all six of them become starters.

“I was hoping to have a little more (class) balance in the lineup, but these kids are athletic enough that they might come in and win jobs. If so, that’s good for us.”

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  • Fritz Daily
    November 21, 2013, 9:31 am

    Unbelievable! Two of the very best high school softball players that ever played in Montana are currently attending the University of Montana, Jaimee Paffhausen and Kaley Bosch. And this guy selects six out of Staters and he has not even talked to them. Should send him back from where he came from! What a joke!

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