Chris Peterson Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
It's going to be a big weekend for the Havre High softball team, as it attempts to fight its way through a critical conference home stand. The Blue Ponies, who have represented the Western A Division in the Class A state tournament in each of the last two seasons, will need to collect some wins this weekend against Polson and Whitefish in Havre. “On our schedule, we don’t play too many conference games, so every conference game that we have is going to be important,” HHS head coach Bob Evans said. “We already faced Browning and got a win against them, and hopefully we can do that again.” HHS's four-game home stand begins today at 4 when the Ponies will play host to Class A powerhouse Polson. “Polson and Libby will be the favorites to win the conference again this year,” Evans said. “(Polson) graduated a lot of good players, but they have got a great program. We know that they are going to be a tough opponent.” A big key for the Ponies is going to be the effectiveness of starting pitcher Steph Stremcha. Stremcha, a senior, who is the top pitcher on the HHS team, put in a good performance in last week's seasonopening win over Browning. She will start the first game and possibly the second today against Polson. “Steph is the ace of our pitching staff and we are going to have her pitch as many innings as we possibly can,” Evans said. “She is definitely going to pitch the first game (today) depending on how she pitches, and if she is doing well and she feels good, she might pitch some in the second game too.” Stremcha will almost certainly start one game each against both Polson and Whitefish this weekend. However, the other possible starter in each two-game set has yet to be determined. Junior Karly Evans will offer one possibility as an alternative starter along with sophomores Abi Ita and Tabitha Myers. While starting pitching will be the biggest key to the Ponies’ success this weekend, another factor will be the production of the offense. A large part of the Havre offense relies on the speed at the top of the batting order which comes from Evans, shortstop Sam Mack and Holly Cartwright, who will see time at third-base. Stremcha, Dannika Patterson and Tiffany Ranes will headline the middle of the HHS lineup. Myers, Jessica Obrecht and Tabitha Beck will likely round out the bottom three spots in the order. While Polson figures to be in contention for the top spot in the conference, the Whitefish Bulldogs will most likely be one of the teams battling it out for a berth in the state tournament, along with Havre and Columbia Falls. “We aren’t just looking to win against Polson, but we are looking to see how we go out and compete,” Evans explained. “It would be a good thing if we could get a win or two against them, but the two games against Whitefish are must-win games. They are a team that we can beat and if we are going to get to the state tournament we will probably have to win at least one or two games to get there.” Havre will play Polson today at 4 and 6, followed by a pair of games against Whitefish starting at noon and 2 p.m. on Saturday. All four games will be played at the Sixth Avenue Softball Field.