Griz Softball Adds Four New Players on Signing Day - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

Griz Softball Adds Four New Players on Signing Day

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The Montana softball program signed four prep athletes to National Letters of Intent Wednesday, the first day of the NCAA’s early signing period.

Kylie Hayton of Bow, Wash., Michaela Hood of Las Vegas, Nev., Morgan Johnson of Missoula and Anne Mari Petrino of Pullman, Wash., all will begin playing for the Grizzlies in 2016-17.

Hood, a senior at Spring Valley High School, is a pitcher. Hayton (Burlington Edison HS) and Petrino (Pullman HS) are outfielders. Johnson (Big Sky HS) is a catcher/infielder.

Second-year coach Jamie Pinkerton has four freshmen on his current team. With the signing of Hayton, Hood, Johnson and Petrino, he continues the process of redistributing his athletes across his team’s different classes.

He has 13 sophomores on this year’s team, a result of the program playing its first season in 2014-15.

“We’re trying to build the numbers up in the other classes so that when that inaugural team graduates in 2018, we don’t have to replace them with 12 or 13 players,” he said.

Montana will lose three players to graduation next spring -- Kelsey Lucostic, Madeline Merritt and Meggie Reitz -- then have just a single senior -- Bethany Olea -- in 2016-17.

“Obviously we’d like a little more balance across the classes, but it’s going to be a work in progress,” Pinkerton added. “We’re probably a couple of years away from having it where we have three scholarships across all four classes, which is what we’d like, but we’re getting there.”

One of Pinkerton’s goals with his roster is to have one pitcher in each class. He accomplished that for his newest class with the signing of Hood, a 5-foot-10 right-handed pitcher.

“Michaela has length and velocity and good snap,” said Pinkerton. “She has good command of her pitches and is a competitor. With her frame, we think there is more in her tank. She has a huge upside.”

Hood was named the Nevada 1-A Sunset League Pitcher of the Year and Player of the Year as a junior and second team all-state by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“Montana is absolutely beautiful and has the academic departments I was looking for,” said Hood, who will be trading the Grizzlies of Spring Valley High for the Grizzlies of Montana.

“Coaches Pinkerton and Meuchel have great track records of success. I know they will help me bring my game even beyond the college level. It’s a dream school for me.”

Hayton and Petrino both will provide depth in the outfield, which will be down a player when Merritt graduates in May.

“We wanted to provide depth in the outfield, along with speed and defensive ability,” said Pinkerton. “We were looking at adding just one, but we came across these two and really liked them.”

Petrino, who has a 4.0 GPA, was an all-state selection as a freshman at Fayetteville High School in Arkansas. She was named first-team All-Great Northern League as a sophomore and junior at Pullman High and the team’s offensive MVP both years.

“I’ve known Anne Mari since she came to our camps at Arkansas when she was a young girl,” said Pinkerton, who coached at the school from 2005-09. “She originally committed to Illinois. When she became available, we got in contact with each other.

“She’s a good defensive outfielder, and with our field being turf, we’re always going to need speed in the outfield to help cut down the alleys. And she’ll bring speed and versatility to the plate. She fits the mold of our slappers. She can soft slap or power slap, and she can swing away.”

Petrino’s Washington Explosion club team has three times qualified for Gold ASA Nationals. At last summer’s Gold Nationals in Portland, she batted .667.

“I am so thankful to have the opportunity to play for the coaching staff at Montana. I love Missoula, the university and the atmosphere that accompanies it, and the softball facilities are amazing.

“I’m extremely excited and honored to be a part of the team, and am looking forward to working hard and winning Big Sky championships,” said Petrino, whose great-grandmother was a multi-sport athlete at Montana in the 1940s. “I look forward to carrying on her tradition of excellence.”

She is the daughter of Paul Petrino, the football coach at Idaho. She was born in Logan, Utah, when her dad coached at Utah State. He also has coached at Louisville, Illinois, Southern Mississippi and Arkansas, and spent one season with the Atlanta Falcons.

“Being a coach’s daughter, I think Anne Mari knows the work that goes into it and what’s expected. She gets it. She has keen sense of what it takes,” said Pinkerton.

“She plays soccer, basketball and softball, and is very competitive in everything she does. With her upbringing, I think she is going to help build the competitive drive of this team.”

Hayton joins Petrino as the class’s outfielders. She plays club softball for the Washington Blaze.

“What I really like about Kylie is that every time we watched her play over the last year, she always got on base,” said Pinkerton. “She has good plate discipline and a great on-base percentage, along with batting average.

“What I also like is that she is always the first one on and off the field. She has a high motor and plays hard and with a lot of heart. She has very good speed and covers a lot of ground in centerfield.”

Hayton added, “Montana is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I am very excited to explore the outdoors. I love how everywhere you go in Missoula there is someone representing the Griz. I cannot imagine being anywhere else the next four years.”

Johnson can play either catcher or the infield, but she was recruited more for the former. By the time Johnson joins the team, Lexie Breneis, Madison Saacke and Dani Walker all will be juniors.

“We thought Morgan was the best kid in the state for what we were looking for,” said Pinkerton. “With our three catchers becoming juniors next year, we needed to come in with a younger player.

“But she’s not just a catcher. She’s an athlete, and we’re always looking for athletes who can play more than one position. She has raw power and also hits for a high average. And she’s competitive.”

Johnson led Western AA in home runs and RBIs last season and was one of the league’s leaders in hits and batting average. Between high school and her club team, she hit .427 in 2015, with 39 runs batted in and 12 home runs.

She was a key member of Big Sky High teams that finished second at state in both 2014 and ’15.

“It’s like a dream come true,” Johnson told NBC Montana in May. “I can’t even describe the feeling. I talked to a lot of coaches and realized that Jamie was the guy I liked the most and the coach I wanted to play for.

“I have a big family, and they all live in Missoula. Having them be able to watch me play is something else. I think I made them happy, and I made myself happy by being able to say I’m from Montana and I play for the Griz.”

There is still an entire softball season to be played before Hayton, Hood, Johnson and Petrino join the Grizzlies, who went 8-0 through their fall exhibition schedule.

Montana will open its spring schedule on Feb. 12 when the Grizzlies face Cal State Bakersfield at the UC Davis Invitational.

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