The long awaited season opener for the Havre High softball team came and went this weekend. And though the Blue Ponies dropped four games in jamboree format, the program took a giant step in the right direction.
On Friday, the Central A Ponies took on some of the state's best softball talent at the Great Falls Jamboree. The games were limited to either one hour or five innings of play, but despite the abbreviated contests, the Ponies earned some much-needed experience.
In the four games the Ponies played on Friday, they first suffered a 10-0 loss to Billings West, the defending Class AA state champions. And rapping up action, the Ponies suffered an 8-0 loss to Class AA Billings Senior, a 6-0 loss to Class AA Billings Skyview and a 6-4 loss to Laurel, the only other Class A program present at the jamboree.
“The girls kept their heads held up high the entire time,” First year Havre High head coach Mike Thill said. “The attitudes were real good and they competed in each game. They just competed better and better as the day went on and they could see the difference and they knew they were getting better.
“What I didn’t want to happen is to go down there and have them overmatched and have their confidence crushed.” Thill added. “We tried to leave each game talking about the positives things they accomplished and use that to build throughout the day. That seemed to work, and indicative of the scores, we got better as the day went on. I was just impressed the girls.”
Though the Blue Ponies suffered four losses, there were plenty of bright spots to build on.
HHS may have let Billings West post 10 runs, but the Ponies' sophomore pitcher, Davee McLeod allowed only four hits. And the Golden Bears proved to be a powerhouse, when later in the day they posted a 20-0 win over Kalispell Flathead. And against Billings Skyview, the Ponies held the Falcons to just two runs through four innings before suffering the 6-0 loss. There was also a point in the fourth inning where the Falcons had the bases loaded with one out and the Pony defense was able to step up their play and get out of the inning unscathed.
Against the Laurel Locomotives, the Ponies looked their best, as they suffered just a two-run loss this time around. And though they suffered the 6-4 loss, the Ponies took the lead early after scoring all four runs in the first inning. In the game Andrea Nault, Roxanna Jensen, Mary Lyons and Jacinta Finneman all recorded a hit
But with the positives, came at least one negative. Clarissa Martin will definitely be a key component to the varsity this season, but suffered a dislocated knee in the first inning and missed the rest of the game. Her absence is not yet known, but the team will anxiously await her return.
McLeod was also impressive for the Ponies on the mound.
She handled all of the pitching duties this weekend, and after limited varsity experience a season ago, she was tossed right into the action on Friday. And there aren’t many jamborees or tournaments that would have been a tougher varsity pitching debut than that of Great Falls, as McLeod pitched against some of the best talent she will see all season long.
“I was very impressed,” Thill said. “We haven’t been outside, we haven’t pitched, and we haven’t even thrown on the dirt. It’s not like (McLeod) has had any opportunity to really work on her pitching, but to go out there and keep her head up, to pitch those four games without being outside and never once complain to me was impressive. It’s real difficult to pitch an hour, rest a half hour, pitch an hour and so on. It would be much easier to do it all at once.”
Overall, the Ponies may not have earned a win, but they grew a lot, especially with the weather keeping them off the field in the early weeks. They competed in every game and gradually got better on both offense and defense. Now with the rest of the schedule awaiting them, the Ponies should have good confidence moving forward.
“They could see the difference and they knew they were getting better,” Thill said.
Next up for the Ponies is a conference double header on Saturday with the Browning Indians and Butte Central Maroons at the Sixth Avenue Memorial Field in Havre.
Billings West 10, Havre 0
Billings Senior 8, Havre 0
Billings Skyview 6, Havre 0
Laurel 6, Havre 4
No team or individual stats available