The Havre High softball team is still in the learning stages, as the Blue Ponies continue to mold the new and young talent that makes up this year's squad. But still being early in the season, this weekend presents itself as yet another opportunity for the Blue Ponies to progress and grow.
Saturday at the Sixth Avenue Memorial Field in Havre, the Central A Ponies will host a nonconference doubleheader with the Columbia Falls Wildcats at noon and 2 p.m.
And having two more nonconference games before heading into the heart of the schedule will highly benefit the Ponies, as they continue to work out the kinks of a new season. Still nursing some injuries, and losing some athletes to other school functions with conflicting schedules, this weekend will allow the Ponies to not only work on said kinks, but also get some more young talent in the varsity lineup.
Clarissa Martin will remain sidelined after dislocating her kneecap two weeks ago. While Martin continues to heal, freshman Kylee Kaul will now get the nod to start her first varsity game.
“This is excellent scheduling,” Havre High head coach Mike Thill said. “We have a chance without a huge amount of pressure to correct a lot of the little mistakes we are making. This will also give a chance to implement some things we have been working on in practice into the games and still come out .500 in conference.
“And getting different girls into the lineup is insurmountable as far as what it is going to do for us down the road,” Thill added. “If we get deeper into the season and we are fighting for a spot in the conference, we will hopefully have 12 or 13 players we can use or pull off the bench. We will be able to see what these girls can do in an actual game situation rather than a practice scenario. And facing a team like Columbia Falls, they will have to step up their defense so we will really see what they can do.”
And though the Ponies are going to use this weekend to further work on some of the young mistakes they have been making, they will still be facing a very tough Wildcats squad.
The Wildcats have already gotten off to a solid start this season, and have beaten some very talented programs, while finding no hesitation in scoring runs. They earned an impressive win over Kalispell Glacier, as well as defeated Ronan 11-9 and Whitefish 11-1.
Just last weekend, the Ponies’ defense made some key throwing and catching errors that allowed the Butte Central Maroons to run away with victory. But after another week of practice, the Ponies can very well compete with the Wildcats if they can cut back on any and all errors and mistakes.
“Evidently Columbia Falls can swing a bat and put runs up on the board,” Thill said. “Our defense is going to have to cut down on the mistakes, hit the cutoff on the throw and do all the other things that we have worked on in practice.”
With the way the Wildcats can produce runs, pithing is also going to be key.
Davee McLeod will once again take the mound, and she has her work cut out for her. She is coming off of a weekend with 18 total strikeouts against Browning and the Maroons, but she had her share of struggles with control and accuracy. If she can put together two solid games on Saturday, she will give the Ponies a huge boost, competitive-wise.
“She had seven strikeouts against Butte Central and 11 against Browning last weekend,” Thill said. “But she had an awful lot of down ball pitches that were up in the letters. She just has to fine-tune her pitches; she has to be a little more aware of where she is throwing the ball and the pitches she is throwing. She just needs to go pitch-by-pitch and batter-by-batter and be aware of what she was to do. She is perfectly capable of that and I expect her to step up a little more each week we play.”
The Blue Pony offense will also need to produce if they hope to keep up with the Wildcats. Andrea Nault and McLeod have gotten off to a decent start as the leadoff and No. 2 hitters, but HHS is still looking to get the optimal production out of the middle of the lineup as it continues to change almost every weekend. Dylann Williams, Michaela Boles and Chelsea Nottingham have been in those three, four and five spots, and are very capable hitters, and if they can get the bats going sooner rather than later, they too would give the Ponies a major boost.
“We need to just step up and swing,” Thill said. “And not get cheated. We are waiting too long for the ball to get too deep into the zone before we make a decision whether we should swing or not. But hopefully, as the weather gets better and we can get out and hit more, we can get through that.”
The Ponies will definitely be challenged this weekend, but they could come away with a win or two if they put together a couple of solid outings, building and learning from the errors they made a week ago. HHS will face Columbia Falls at noon and 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Sixth Avenue Memorial Field in Havre.