Sunday, May 26, 2024

Softball senior mainstays

Daily Inter Lake | May 14, 2024 3:05 PM

One of the reasons the Flathead Bravettes have trended up as a softball program is the presence of Kaidyn Lake and Laynee Vessar, two senior mainstays who seemingly have been around forever.

OK, they’ve only been Bravettes since 2021 — they were two of the three freshmen that played varsity that season. But they’ve been together since that second year of 12U travel ball, when Vessar was established as a catcher and Lake was picking grounders on the left side of the infield.

Not that that was what happened three years ago.

“It was definitely interesting,” said Lake, who alongside Vessar went to open gyms with the Bravettes as a middle schooler, but who was still shocked to make varsity as a ninth-grader. “It all really kind of hit us in the face; it became much more of a reality. We just kind of became whatever the team needed, which was a pretty good experience.”

They both played some outfield that year, and ironically the Bravettes won four league games — a high-water mark in recent seasons. But it was before the expanded playoff bracket so they didn’t make state.

Last year that changed and Flathead got in for the first time since 2007.

 It figured that would happen again, but the Bravettes had key players McKenzie Brandt and Reese Conley go down with injuries. Now they’re 4-12 overall and 2-8 in Western AA games.

Now Tuesday’s doubleheader with Butte at KidSport — the Bulldogs, 3-8 in league, and Bravettes start at 1 p.m. — is ultra important.

“They’re huge,” first-year head coach Brittany Williams said. “We had some pretty big injuries that took (players) out for a couple weeks in the middle of the season.

 “But they’re back and healthy and in the lineup this week, thankfully. We’ve dealt with a lot of adversity this season.”

Steadying things has been Vessar, the longtime backstop, and Lake, the third baseman.

“I was a first baseman, and in 12U and our catcher got hurt on our travel team,” Vessar said. “Our coach (Tim Anderson) had me try it, and so I tried it. And I loved it.”

Both girls sport 4.0 grade-point averages. Both are headed to Montana State — Vessar in nursing, Lake in architecture — as roommates.

“The great thing about both of those two, they are perfect examples of what it means to be a student athlete,” Williams said. “Putting in the work on and off the field, open gyms since their eighth grade rally, they’re both excellent students.”

And they can play. Bessan hits .278; Lake leads the team with five home runs and 14 runs batted in.

It’s a big week, with a Crosstown with Glacier Thursday, and a Saturday matchup with Missoula Hellgate Saturday. All four games are at KidSport.

“We have to win them both, in order to make state,” Lake said. “This week of practice has been very down to the point. 

Our main goal has been to build the program for the future athletes to compete and also have fun. I think we have the willpower and talent to move forward and make state.”
No matter what happens, Williams — an assistant the past three seasons, before taking over for Jack Foster this season — is thankful for the senior duo.

“I’m super appreciative of all the time, heart and effort they’ve put into our program,” Williams said. “They left the program in a better place than they found it. I can’t believe we’re about to have senior night. I’ve cried a couple times already.”