Chris Peterson Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
After suffering a pair of diffi- cult setbacks in Western A Conference play at home last weekend, the Havre High softball team will look to rebound in a big way this weekend, as the Blue Ponies go on the road for two more conference double headers. The Ponies (1-4 overall, 1-4 conference) desperately need to get some wins this weekend if they are going to remain in contention for a third-consecutive berth in the Class A state softball tournament. Havre, which is now in fifth-place in the Western A standings, following back-to-back two-game sweeps at the hands of Polson and White- fish last weekend in Havre, need to notch a few victories against Class A state runner-up Libby on Friday and against an up and coming Columbia Falls team on Saturday. “We don’t have very many conference games left,” HHS head coach Bob Evans said. “So it is going to be important for us to go out and compete and try to find a way to get a few wins this weekend.” Havre will open up the critical four-game conference stretch with a pair of road games against Libby on Friday. The first game will begin at 4 p.m. followed by the second game, which will take place at 6 p.m. “Libby always seems to have a very good team and I don’t think that this year will be different,” Evans said. “They have almost all of their key players back from last season. But hopefully we can go out there and compete as hard as we can and maybe pick up a win or two against them.” The Loggers most fearful weapon happens to be their dominating starting pitcher, Brooke Hageness. Hageness is 2-0 on the season and in her last start against Columbia Falls, she only allowed a meager one run on just one hit in seven innings. Other key players, particularly on offense, include Shelby Barton, who went 4-for-4 with a double and two RBIs against Columbia Falls last weekend. Other top players for the Loggers include Alysha Martin, Sami Freebury and Nicki Lapka. Hageness will certainly start at least one game, but there is a chance that she will start both contests against the underdog HHS squad. Havre will answer Hageness with a strong starting pitcher of its own in senior Steph Stremcha. Stremcha struggled a little bit last weekend against Polson and Whitefish, getting stuck with a loss against each team, but she is still the ace of Havre’s pitching staff and she will need a strong outing if the Ponies are going to have a chance to pull out a win. While Stremcha will start the first game, junior Karly Evans will start the second game in Libby. Evans was impressive in the last seven innings in game two against Columbia Falls before getting stuck with the loss in overtime. Tabitha Myers may also see some time pitching in the fourgame set for the Ponies in relief. “We have got to play a bit of tough schedule, but the girls are upbeat,” Evans said. “We know that we are playing two very good teams, but we are going to have t find a way to win some games to stay in contention for the state tournament. It would be nice to get four, but we probably need to get at least three wins to give ourselves a chance.” Last weekend against Polson and Whitefish, the Ponies only managed to score 14 runs over the course of four games, so the offense will also need to make its presence felt if Havre is going to have a chance of winning two or three games this weekend. “There is no question that we need to do a lot better job of getting some timely hits in key situations,” Evans said. “I don’t think that we need to change anything as far as our batting order is concerned. We just need to find a way to get some hits when we have kids in scoring position.” After a two-game set against Libby, Havre will turn its attention to a must-win series against Columbia Falls Saturday. The two teams split last season in Havre, but a split may effectively end any hopes of an appearance in the state tournament for the Ponies. “Columbia Falls is a team that is similar to us,” Evans said. “They have some younger kids that are back from last season, so they should be a very strong opponent.” On the mound, the Wildkats will rely heavily on the starting pitching of Amanda Milliard, who is also a stellar hitter, as well as Drew Walters and Jessica Owens. Offensively, Columbia Falls will turn to Amber James, Renae Nelson, Tia Yager and Kayla Stinger to produce runs. Havre will be led on offense by speed at the top of the order from Sam Mack, Holly Cartwright, as well as the power in the middle of the order that comes from Stremcha, Danika Patterson and Tiffany Ranes. “These games are definitely going to be important for our team,” Evans said. “But we have a lot of games left to play, so hopefully we can just go out there and compete and try to come away with a few wins. Havre and Libby will play Friday in Libby at 4 and 6 p.m. Then, the Ponies will be in Columbia Falls on Saturday for two games, which will take place at noon and 2 p.m.