By Bill Foley
Sofee Thatcher will not be the first of Bill “Chunky” Thatcher and Leah Francisco’s children to go to college.
Not even close.
She is not even the first of the family to play sports in college. She is the fifth.
Alex played volleyball at Montana Tech, Hattie played basketball at Montana Tech, Kloie plays basketball at Rocky Mountain College, and Cutter runs track at the University of Montana
Baylee could have played sports in college after a stellar career in multiple sports at Butte High. Tucker, a standout basketball player, ended up playing football as a senior in high school after a childhood as a Shriner’s Hospital patient with a hip issue.
Still, Sofee Thatcher was not simply carrying along a family tradition Wednesday afternoon when she singed to play softball for Dawson Community College in Glendive. She was carving out her own legacy.
“That’s why it’s nice,” Thatcher said after signing in front of family and friends at the Maroon Activities Center. “There’s no one that I’m being compared to now. It’s my sport, and I get to go have fun.”
Thatcher pointed out that her cousin Ashley (Thatcher) Blomgren, who grew up in Great Falls, played softball at Virginia Tech. She said being saddled with the Thatcher name — and the expectations that come with being part of the family know for its toughness and athletic success — has not always been easy.
“Sometimes it’s hard to carry on that Thatcher last name, but I’m excited that I get to do it,” she said. “It’s been difficult at times, especially in basketball coming after Kloie and Hattie.”
Despite the lofty expectations, Sofee has held up admirably, to say the least.
This past school year alone, Thatcher earned All-State honors in volleyball and softball. She was second-team all-conference in helping lead Butte Central to the Class A State basketball tournament.
This spring, Thatcher’s return from a knee injury spurred a Central turnaround that saw the Maroons transform from a 1-9 team into a three-win team at State.
She probably could have played volleyball at the next level. Softball, though, is her first love.
“It always has been,” Thatcher said. “Softball is the most fun.”
Thatcher, who missed most of her junior season with mononucleosis, batted .519 as a senior. She hit .600 in five games at the Class A State tournament in Hamilton. That included a home run, three doubles and three RBIs.
Thatcher also went 11-5 as a pitcher, something she said she hopes she won’t have to do in college. She only pitched for BC out of necessity.
For the Buccaneers, Thatcher figures to go back to her natural position of center field.
“I’m going to play center, or just anywhere in the outfield,” Thatcher said. “Hopefully no pitching is in my future.”
Dawson has been a power house in the Mon-Dak Conference. Tami Langmay took over for Butte native and current Butte Miners coach Jim LeProwse before this last season.
In Langmay, Sofee Thatcher seems some similarities.
“Coach Tami is just super, super cool to be around,” Thatcher said. “She’s super straight forward, she’s intense, and she likes to win. Knowing my family, that’s something we all like to do.”
Langmay likes what she sees in Thatcher, too.
“Sofee is an All-State player that will definitely contribute to our outfield and lineup next year,” Langmay said in a statement. “I been watching Sofee for a couple years now and super excited that she committed to our DCC family. She knows what he takes to be a winner on and off the field. Sofee’s attitude and competitive drive will be an impact to our program right away.”
At Dawson, Thatcher plans to earn an associate degree in exercise science. Down the road, Thatcher plans to go to a school with a physical therapy program.
If all goes well, she plans to play softball.
“Hopefully, if my body can take it,” she said. “We all know I’ve had some struggles these last few years.”