A year ago the Havre High softball program had its best season in its short existence. Now entering their sixth season in Havre, the Blue Ponies are looking to keep progressing. Last year the Central A Ponies made an appearance at the state tournament. They went 1-2 on the weekend, and finished with a 14-9-1 record overall. It was a great finish to a great year, where HHS also got off to a 5-0 record to start that season. This time around the Ponies are looking to keep the progress going and hopefully turn in another successful year. The season will finally get underway on Friday. The Ponies are set to take to the road in their season opener, where they will face a lot of talented programs at the Great Falls Jamboree in Great Falls. Last year the jamboree was canceled due to snowy weather, but there should be no such delays this year. And after a long offseason, the Ponies are excited to compete. “We really want to get out and play just so we can see how we react to the competition,” Havre High head coach Bob Evans said. “My goal is to play all the girls and see how they react. I am anxious to see how we look playing in a real game rather than just out on the practice field. I am excited just to see how they look.” The jamboree will be made up of five inning games with a one-hour time limit. And with Great Falls, CMR, Bozeman and Butte on the Ponies' calendar, HHS should have adequate time to get a good look at this year’s team. The Ponies will face Great Falls High Friday at 11 a.m., CMR at 12:30 p.m., Bozeman at 2 p.m. and Butte at 4 p.m. Each game is a five-inning affair, or a one-hour time limit. “If we can compete I will be happy,” Evans said. “I am not looking for wins to be honest, I am looking at this as just a chance to play. If we win I will be tickled to death, but first of all I just want all of our kids a chance to play.” Getting all the kids in competition is the first step for the Ponies to begin another successful season. But finding they same success as last year won’t be easy, and it’s going to take some time and growth. Karly Evans, Samantha Mack and Natalie Kato will all be missing off of this year’s roster. And between the three of them, they take with them nine years of varsity experience. It also means the pitching arm of Evans will be missed as well as everything Mack’s all-state talents brought to the table. The Ponies do have some outstanding individual talent returning, but as a team they aren’t as deep or experienced as they have been in years past. “When you lose quality kids like that it’s hard to fill in,” Evans said. “But with these younger girls, we just have to hope they step up. They are improving every practice, but it’s going to take time because they have little experience. This is the first year we have this little experience. This year we just have to wait and see.” Seniors Holly Cartwright, Kelli Kelsey, Tabitha Myers and Abigail Ita headline the key returners. They have all been around the program for the last four years, and the team’s success will fall heavily on their shoulders. “I am just looking for good leadership, and they have already been good for our program,” Evans said. “They are just quality kids and good competitors. I am going to have to rely on my seniors to pack the load while the rest of the girls get better as the season goes.” As of now the rest of the varsity roster is occupied by up-an-comers. They haven’t a lot of varsity experience but show signs of promise. Junior Chelsea Notingham has the most varsity experience as the Pony catcher, but joining her in the infield will be juniors Jasmine Chagnon, Alex Herrig, Dylann Williams and Ashley Keeling. And in the outfield junior Andrea Nault brings the most varsity experience along with sophomores Clarissa Martin and Ciara Donovan. “They are pretty green as far as varsity goes,” Evans said. “We have to mold another team together, but so far I am very pleased with them. They are great bunch of kids and they are really working hard. These are kids that truly want to play and are working hard at it.” As far as the bats go, Kelsey, Cartwright and Myers are also going to have to carry the load. They all hit very well last year, and should do the same this year. If they can pick up where they left off it would be a huge boost to the Ponies offense. And Evans said because of the lack of young superstars, their at bats will play directly into how well this season will go. Pitching will also be key for the Ponies. HHS is moving from last year's three-man rotation to a two-man rotation with Myers and Ita. But with their abilities, that won’t be a problem. Between the two of them, they combined for 10 wins last season. “We have plenty of pitching,” Evans said. “If they can come around like they did last year they should do well. They have the experience, it just depends if they can step it up and have the same kind of year as last year.” Once again the Ponies find themselves in a tough conference with a tough schedule. On the Ponies' schedule is not only their Central A conference opponents, but also teams such as they ones they will see in Great Falls on Friday. And the Central A is tougher than ever. Butte Central and Belgrade are continually two of the better teams in the state. And after they both finished in the top three last year, they aren’t expected to skip a beat this season. But give Belgrade a slight advantage as they return most of their lineup including their entire pitching staff. “I know the both of them are always tough,” Evans said. “And I am sure they will be strong again this year.” Evans and the Ponies don’t know a whole lot about Livingston, Lewistown or Browning, but they will by the end of the season since they face all of them numerous times this season. But looking at the Ponies now, HHS should be right in the mix competing for a top spot in the conference. The Ponies will have a better handle on where they are after this weekend. They have good returning talent as well as promising up and comers. They aren’t as deep with experience as they were in years past, but they know they can move past that with time and competition under their belts. HHS will get their season started on Friday in Great Falls when they attend the Great Falls Jamboree. HHS's first home games are April 10 against Browning and Butte Central.
Ponies set for a new season on the diamond
Havre High softball team opens its season in Great Falls
Published: Thursday, April 1st, 2010
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