Havre Daily News Sports Editor
The Havre High softball team hopes that the second road trip of the 2005 season will go a little better than the first. One thing is for certain, the Ponies will have four opportunities to get their first road win instead of just two.
Havre will be in Polson today to face the defending Class A state champion Lady Pirates in a doubleheader starting at 3 p.m.
"I don't know much about them," said HHS head coach Bob Evans. "But they're an established program. I don't know if they're quite as strong as Whitefish and Libby are this year, but I know they are better than Columbia Falls. So it should be a tough game."
Polson lost four starters from last year's squad. While four may not seem like a large quantity, the Pirates lost a ton of quality.
Gone are three-time all-state shortstop Kadee Meidinger and second team all-state pitcher Ashley Wolsdstad. Also lost to graduation are first baseman Kelsey Noble and third baseman Bonnie Klein.
Still, the cupboard is far from bare in Polson. The Pirates return a plethora of all-state players to this year's team.
Three-time all-state selection Strohm Fouty will move from second to shortstop and is one of the team's leaders. Also back is all-state catcher Jenni Nesladek, who hit just under .500 last season.
The Pirates' best hitter is all-state leftfielder Keely Torgison, who broke the school record with 41 RBIs a year ago. Joining in the outfield is centerfielder Tami Bonkowski, who was a second-team all-stater.
Polson will rely on sophomore Dylan Zetterberg to handle the bulk of the pitching duties. Zetterberg is an impressive 6-0 on the season.
While Polson features a lineup of all-staters, Havre will be without four of its regulars. Whitney Barnekoff, Kyla Kelsey, Tereyl Shrauger and Tara Borst will miss the games because of the District Music Festival.
"It hurts us a little," Evans admitted. "We'll really miss Kyla because our back-up catcher and she's been hitting the ball well. Whitney is our staple at third and Tara has been really coming on."
Evans will bring up underclassmen Kaylee Benner, Tana Tchida and Erika Briese for the trip.
"It's good opportunity for the younger kids," Evans said. "They'll get a chance to play some and see what they need to do to play at this level. It's a great learning experience."
The weekend isn't over with the doubleheader against Polson. Havre will travel south to Frenchtown to play in the Frenchtown Invitational softball tournament.
The Ponies will face Hamilton at 10 a.m. and Ronan at 2 p.m. The game against Ronan has a little added meaning since it will count in the conference standings.
"You always want to win the conference games," Evans said. "I don't know that either of them are quite on that level as Whitefish or Libby, but we still have to play well to win."
Hamilton opened its season with a pair of wins, before falling to Class A power Frenchtown. The Broncs are led by pitcher Jamie Huseby and hitters Tara Anderson and Kelly Berk.
While the Ponies are building a program, Ronan is rebuilding its program. The Maidens have eight new players and two new coaches in the program.
However, it is returnee Kayla Couture who is Ronan's key player. Couture is the Maidens' top pitcher, but can also play first and third base, while being one of the team's best hitters.
Also returning is second baseman Bridget Taylor, while Charlee Cordier and Elizabeth Krantz should also contribute. Ronan's squad features eight freshmen.
Like Havre, Ronan owns a win over Columbia Falls this season. The Maidens spanked the WildKats 13-5 a week ago and played Whitefish tough on Tuesday, losing 4-3.
While Evans doesn't have in-depth scouting reports for his opponents, it's hardly a big concern.
"I'm more concerned that we do the things we need to do to win," he said. "We have to worry about what we can control."
One of those things is hitting. The Ponies haven't exactly knocked the cover off the ball thus far, but they are improving.
"We've worked very hard on our hitting this past week," Evans said. "We have to start understanding the strike zone better. We're swinging at a lot of bad pitches. We're making contact better, but some of the girls just aren't strong enough to really drive the ball."
Fresh off their first win of the season, Evans and the Ponies would love to make it two in a row.
"The girls are really pumped up to play this weekend," Evans said. "They just get so excited to play. They know they are getting better with every game."