Havre Daily News sports editor
The excitement of qualifying for its first-ever Class A state tournament berth quickly wore off for the Havre High softball team as the Ponies found out that even though they took a big step forward this season, they are not quite at the level of the best teams in Class A softball.
The Ponies entered the state tournament in Billings with an 8-12 record (6-6 in conference) and a third-place finish in the western division. Unfortunately, their stay in the state tournament in Billings didn't last long, as they were sent packing after two losses - to Butte Central on Thursday 12-3, and Glendive 15-4 on Friday.
“We were just simply overmatched,” HHS head coach Bob Evans said. “We knew coming into the tournament that the odds of us winning the state title or even winning a game weren't very good. We were just happy to be here, while the teams we were facing came to compete for the state title. It wasn't that we weren't trying to win, because the girls played hard. We just aren't on the same level as a lot of the other teams. But it still was a positive experience for our young team.”
After falling to Butte Central on Thursday, the Ponies faced Glendive in loser-out action with their season on the line.
Kelsey Evans, who has been the ace of the Ponies pitching staff throughout the season, had a rough outing, as she gave up 11 runs in the second inning. The Red Devils put the Ponies to pasture by adding two more runs to that 13-4 lead.
“We didn't play too badly,” Evans said. “We just gave up that one big inning. Kelsey started to throw some bad pitches, she couldn't really keep the ball down and the defense didn't really help her out much either. We did get some runs early in the game, but we can't keep up in a high-scoring ball game because we don't have that kind of offensive firepower.”
The Ponies got four runs in the first two innings giving them a 4-2 lead before they surrendered 11 runs in the bottom of second inning. Katie McLeod Sjantee D'Hooge and Karly Evans all led the way for the Pony offense with one hit apiece.
Steph Stremcha took over the pitching duties in the third inning for Kelsey Evans and held Glendive to two runs over the final two innings.
In the opening round on Thursday, the Ponies hung with the Butte Central Maroons for six innings before things slipped away in the top of the seventh inning. The Ponies took an early 1-0 lead with a run in bottom of the first inning. Butte Central scored five runs later in the game to give them a 5-1 lead then Havre scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth to cut the lead to 5-3.
That is when things fell apart for the Ponies as pitcher Kelsey Evans gave up seven runs in the top of the seventh inning putting the game out of reach and giving the Maroons the nine-run victory.
“We actually played pretty well in the first game against Butte Central,” Evans said. “We had a chance to win, then we gave up another big inning and that put us too far behind to catch up.”
Kelli O'Leary grabbed the win and Evans was given the loss. Erika Briese lead Havre batters with two hits. Kelsey Evans and Sam Mack each added one hit for Havre.
“We just made way too many mistakes to win.” Evans said. “We had a lot of errors and we gave up way too many outs. In one game we had like 10 or 11 strikeouts. It's not hard for the defense to make plays when you never put the ball in play. You don't force the defense to make plays. Until we can hit more consistently we are never going to reach the level of the top teams.”
Laurel ended up taking home the Class A state title with an 11-1 victory in the state championship game against Libby. Frenchtown finished in third place and Polson came away with a fourth-place finish giving the western division the second- and fourth-place trophies
“It was a good weekend for our league,” Evans said. “We play in a tough conference and it showed this weekend.
“This season was still a large success,” He added. “We came a long way in our second season. Nobody thought we could make it this far in our second season of play and I think our program took a big step forward by just making it to the state tournament. We have a very young team and the experience of playing in the state tournament is going to lay the foundation for our future and bring enthusiasm to this program.”
Havre High returns a bulk of its roster, including pitcher Steph Stremcha, for the 2007 Class A softball season which gets under way next March.
2006 Class A State Softball
Butte Central 12, Havre 3
Butte Central 000 302 7 - 12 11 3
Havre 100 002 0 - 3 4 7
Kelli O'Leary and Brooke Pokorny; Kelsey Evans and Jessica Obrecht.
WP - O'Leary. LP - Evans.
Butte Central - Pokorny 0-4, Amber Orizotti 2-5, Kelci Thatcher 1-5, O'Leary 2-4, Kiley Prendergast 0-3, Katelyn McCarthy 1-3, Saidee Johnston 1-4, Hanna Manion 2-4, Kacey Daily 2-4, Anna Baide 0-0. 2B - Orizotti.
Havre - Jessica Obrecht 0-3, Katie McLeod 0-4, Sam Mack 1-3, Kelsey Evans 1-3, McKayla Patterson 0-3, Steph Stremcha 0-3, Erika Briese 2-3, Stacey Sheppard 0-3, Sjanetee D'Hooge 0-3, Kaylee Benner 0-3.
Glendive 15, Havre 4
Havre 130 00 - 4 3 2
Glendive 2(11)2 0x - 15 15 1
Kelsey Evans, Steph Stremcha (2) and Jessica Obrecht, Danika Patterson (2); Abbey Dufner and Rachel DeKaye.
WP - Dufner. LP - Evans.
Havre - Jessica Obrecht 0-0, Danika Patterson 0-1, Sam Mack 0-3, Erika Briese 0-3, Evans 0-3, Katie McLeod 1-4, Stremcha 0-3, McKayla Patterson 0-0, Tiffany Ranes 0-1, Stacey Sheppard 0-2, Sjanetee D'Hooge 1-1, Karly Evans 1-1, Kaylee Benner 0-0.
Glendive - DeKaye 2-2, Kali Christianson 2-4, Kalli Stanhope 3-4, Rikki Berg 1-4, Shiloh Wynne 0-4, Katelyn Cunningham 3-3, Alesha Maddock 1-3, Tarena Utgaard 1-1, Lexi Dufner 2-3. 2B - DeKaye, Christianson, Stanhope, Cunningham 2.