Havre Daily News
Right in the midst of a season-high four-game winning streak, the Havre High softball team will take a break from its conference schedule for some tournament play this weekend in Butte.
The Ponies come into the Butte Central tournament with a record of 5-6 in all conference games. Havre got off to a slow start this season, but after a victory over Columbia Falls, the season took a drastic change for the better. Now the Ponies are on the brink of their first berth in the Class A state softball tournament.
“We have been playing pretty well lately and because of that we have put ourselves in a good position for the state tournament,” head coach Bob Evans said. “We are not in the state tournament yet and we still have some work to do there, but our girls are having a lot fun right now.”
This weekend's tournament in Butte will be the first time all season the Ponies will play outside the conference. Actually, while it is officially called a tournament, it is more of a round robin. A total of 27 teams will participate and each team will play at least four games. There will be no championship game nor will a champion be named. This weekend is simply a great chance for a team like Havre to test itself against good competition from all around the state of Montana.
Havre will match up against Livingston, Hardin, Corvallis and Stevensville. The best team out of the four the Ponies will face is probably Corvallis. Last weekend at the Frenchtown Invitational, Corvallis throttled Whitefish 19-0, a team that the Ponies split with earlier in the season.
Corvallis is led by pitcher Kasie Conder and the Blue Devils' potent batting lineup of Carmen Burdette, Jalene Swanson, Kylynn Pelkey and Ashley Gates.
“I think that we should be able to match up pretty well with whoever we play this weekend,” Evans said. “I don't know a whole lot about the teams that we are going to be playing, but unless we run into a powerhouse like Polson or Libby, we should do pretty well.”
If the Ponies want to continue building the momentum they have gained in their last four games, Kelsey Evans will have to continue to dominate on the mound for the Ponies. Evans has won her last four starts, including game two of the Ponies' doubleheader with Ronan last weekend. In that game, Evans allowed only one run on three hits while striking out 11, an outstanding number of strikeouts for a softball game.
Havre will also benefit from the return of regular players Steph Stremcha, Laura Zentmire and Erika Briese, all of whom missed last weekend's doubleheader in Ronan. Stremcha will provide the Ponies with a second solid starting pitcher. Zentmire and Briese will bring some pop back to the Pony lineup and will also bring some solid defensive play at first and second base.
“The nice thing about playing in this tournament is that it will give our players a chance to relax a little bit and just have some fun,” Bob Evans said. “Of course, we want to win, because we want to show everyone that we are a good team and we are for real. It will also allow us to get some more players good playing experience and it will give us another chance to get better.
“We have been playing really well as of late, but we still have to keep getting better,” he added. “We have to find a way to hit the ball better and we need to work on our bunting. We just have to fine-tune some of the little mistakes we have been making. We are really looking forward to playing this weekend because it will give us a chance to see some new teams and also get a look at some of the teams we may be facing at the state tournament.”
The Ponies will play in the Butte Central Invitational on both Friday and Saturday.