By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
Playing the first game of the season is always cause for some nerves and butterflies. Playing the first game of the season as a brand new team in a budding program in front a large home crowd makes butterflies feel more like B-52s.
The Havre Softball Club overcame an early case of nerves to earn a split with the Browning Indians on Saturday at Sixth Avenue Memorial Field.
Browning capitalized on Havre players' anxiousness in the first game to pick up an 11-8 win.
"They were so nervous in the first couple of the innings of the first game," said head coach Kim Staudinger. "We were just really tight. After we played a few innings, they started to relax and they started to play well."
Browning grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning, as Katie MacDonald reached on an error and scored later on a double from Jami Running Crane.
Havre answered in the second inning with three runs, as Browning committed a pair of costly errors that led to two runs and Sjanetee D'Hooge drove in Havre's other run with an RBI single.
Havre starting pitcher Kristin Evanson held Browning scoreless for the next three innings. But the Indians finally got to her in the fifth inning with five hits leading to five runs and a 6-3 lead.
Havre added a run in the fifth on an RBI from Kelsey Evans. But Browning continued to tack on runs in the sixth with a little help from Havre, which committed a pair of costly errors en route to four Indian runs.
Havre continued to rally, scoring a run in the sixth and three in the seventh, but came up short in the end.
"The girls really did a good job of coming back," Staudinger said. "They never gave up. But we just kind of hit the wall."
Browning's Samantha Higgins picked up the win on the mound, holding Havre to just five hits and striking out 15 batters.
"She threw pretty slow," Staudinger said. "Our girls were used to hitting off our pitching machine at a much faster speed. We got overanxious and were swinging out on our front foot and dropping our elbows. We didn't show much plate discipline. We were swinging at anything."
Evanson took the loss for Havre, pitching all seven innings while giving up 12 hits.
"That's the most consistent I've ever seen her pitch," Staudinger said. "Her changeup was working well. Our defense didn't help her out at times. She pitched well enough to deserve to win that game."
Havre got hits from D'Hooge, Evans, Kim Collins, Laura Zentmire and Whitney Barnekoff.
"You could tell Browning played six games already this year and you could tell it was our first game of the year," Staudinger said.
Thankfully for Havre, the second game was immediately after the first.
The nightcap was scheduled to be a junior varsity game, but with neither team having enough players to fill out a complete JV squad, the game had a varsity feel.
Even with the mixture of younger players and older players, Havre was able to pick up a 13-12 win in a game that featured a myriad of errors, particularly in a late Browning run.
"We tried to give them that second game at the end," Staudinger said. "We were just throwing it all around the field."
Indeed, Havre was clinging to 13-9 lead going into the top of the seventh inning when things got a little interesting.
After picking up a quick out, starting pitcher Whitney Barnekoff surrendered a pair of harmless singles to Noel Higgins and Running Crane.
However, the hits turned out to be costly as Katie MacDonald singled and the ensuing throw home to get the lead runner was mishandled. With the runners trying to advance on the initial error, Havre began throwing the ball over the infield leading to two more throwing errors and plating the other two runners. Suddenly, the innocent looking beginning had cut the lead to 13-12.
But Barnekoff bore down on the mound, striking out Tara Horn, surviving two more infield errors and retiring Kayla LaPier to end the game.
"They hit Whitney pretty well, but we played defense a little better," Staudinger said. "We still had 11 errors, but we made plays when we needed to."
The two teams traded leads early and often in the game. Browning grabbed an early 4-0 lead after two innings, led by a two-run home run by Running Crane.
Havre got on the board in the bottom of the second with a solo home run from Zentmire. But Browning quickly added to its lead in the third inning, sparked by a two-run triple from Bobbi Woodworth to take an 8-1 lead.
The Indians helped Havre out in the third inning, committing a pair of errors that lead to two runs. Havre continued to whittle away as D'Hooge spanked a two-run home run.
With Barnekoff holding the Browning bats quiet, Havre took the lead with a monster fifth inning. Havre got three singles and capitalized on four walks from BHS starter Noel Higgins to score eight runs as 12 Havre batters came to the plate. Evans and Mandy Boyce had RBI singles while Brittany Callahan, Tara Borst and Whitney Schwan all had RBIs.
"Once we got that first game out of the way, the girls relaxed and got competitive," Staudinger said. "Our younger girls didn't have anything to lose and they really played well."
Barnekoff picked up the win going, seven innings while allowing 12 hits and striking out four.
Zentmire and Boyce each had two hits for Havre. D'Hooge, Boyce, Borst and Schwan had two RBIs each.
"There were a lot of good things that came out of this," Staudinger said. "We thought our outfield would be a weak spot, but they played pretty good, and we played with a lot of excitement."
Havre returns to action Tuesday when it travels to Cut Bank to take on the Wolves in a seven-inning game at 5 p.m.
Havre Softball Club 030 011 3 - 8 5 4
Browning High 100 054 1 - 11 12 8
Samantha Higgins (WP) and LaToya St. John, Michelle Higgins; Kristin Evanson (LP) and Kim Collins.
BROWNING - Jenna Skunk Cap 1-5, Bobbi Woodworth 1-5, Katie McDonald 1-5, Jami Running Crane 3-4, Katie Boggs 2-4, Noel Higgins 2-4, Tiffany Polk 0-4, Latoya St. John 0-3, Michelle Higgins 1-1, Tessa Racine 1-2.
HAVRE - Sjanetee D'Hooge 1-3 (RBI), Casey Benner 0-5, Kelsey Evans 1-4, Kim Collins 1-4, Brittany Callahan 0-3, Laura Zentmire 1-4 (RBI), Katie McLeod 0-4, Whitney Barnekoff 1-4, Kaci Owens 0-4.
2B - Woodworth, Running Crane
3B - none
HR - none
Browning High 224 001 3 - 12 10 3
Havre Softball Club 013 280 X - 13 7 11
Noel Higgins (LP) and Latoya St. John; Whitney Barnekoff (WP) and Mandy Boyce.
BROWNING - Bobbi Woodworth 3-5, Noel Higgins 2-5, Jami Running Crane 3-5, Katie MacDonald 0-3, Tara Horn 0-5, LaToya St. John 2-5, Kayla LaPier 1-5, Raquel Little Plume 0-3.
HAVRE - Sjanetee D'Hooge 1-4 (2 RBI), Casey Benner 0-3 (RBI), Kelsey Evans 1-2 (RBI), Brittany Callahan 0-4 (RBI), Laura Zentmire 2-3 (RBI), Mandy Boyce 2-4 (2 RBI), Tara Borst 0-3 (2 RBI), McKayla Patterson 0-3.
2B - St. John 2
3B - Woodworth, Running Crane
HR - Running Crane, D'Hooge, Zentmire