Just like many teams across the state, the Havre High softball team is still attempting to tie any loose ends before the start of a new season. But getting the opportunity to start the season against topnotch Class AA talent, the Blue Ponies will also use the opening weekend to make any necessary moves, changes or adjustments moving forward.
The Central A Ponies will start their season on Saturday in Great Falls, competing in the Great Falls Jamboree. HHS will face
Great Falls High, Butte High, Laurel and Billings Senior, three Class AA matchups that won’t count towards the final standings.
Last season wasn’t strong one of the Ponies, but the team remains optimistic. Last season they finished 3-7 in the conference and 6-11 overall, they also missed out on a post season birth, and got rained out of their final weekend of competition. But this year, bringing in 25 girls to fill the varsity and junior varsity roster, the Ponies are hoping their new and veteran talent will take the Ponies to the next level.
“We certainly would like to be competitive in every game,” Havre High head coach Mike Thill said. “But we should definitely be able to see where we stand after these four games. This is a tough schedule this weekend, but the good news is that it is non conference. It is going to be a learning and evolving process, so it will be good to have the opportunity to play. It will be like having a spring training.”
And headed into the opening weekend, the Ponies' roster and lineup is still being tweaked.
Junior pitcher Davee McLeod is the only Blue Pony entering the weekend at the same position she played at last year. Other than that, nothing is set in stone, and the final roster may not even be decided until taking the field against Great Falls on Saturday. Freshman pitcher Paige Henderson will play shortstop this weekend, while junior Mary Lyons will move from third base to catcher, senior Michaela Boles will move from second base to center field and senior Clarissa Martin will return to action at first and third base. Martin missed a lot of time last year due to a knee injury.
“Those are really the only girls and positions that we know about for sure,” Thill said.
McLeod will have a lot on her plate this weekend, pitching against four of the best AA squads in the state; including defending state champion Butte High. But McLeod should know what to expect, as she was basically the only varsity pitcher last season for HHS, and pitched all four games at the Great Falls Jamboree last season as well. However, if needed, Henderson has shown a lot of pitching potential, and could help out on the mound this weekend, and hopefully throughout this season.
“She (McLeod) pitched all four games last year,” Thill said. “But she seemed worse for the wear from it. But our pitchers have been coming in at six in the morning and throwing since the season opened, so we will just have to see how it all goes. We still aren’t sure how things will go, but Paige Henderson could be available to pitch if we need her.”
But whether it is pitching, batting or fielding, the Ponies are going to have to have four strong outings if they even hope to be competitive on Saturday.
There isn’t one easy game this weekend, and with their being an hour time limit, HHS needs to take advantage of every opportunity they get. Being 10 runned is something coach Thill has already talked about avoiding this season, so that means a stout defense, as well as active bats. But with this being the opening weekend, Thill is well aware his defense needs to be ready to carry the load.
“We have been working really hard on defense,” Thill said. “So if nothing else, we are hoping to be able to make some stops. We should be overpowered in the pitching department because pitchers should be ahead of hitters this early in the season, so defense has really been our focus. Hopefully we can come up with some stops and hold down some of these team’s run production, if we can do that we will be happy as a coaching staff.”
Saturday in Great Falls, the Ponies will face Great Falls High, Butte High, Laurel and Billings Senior at the Great Fall Jamboree. The Ponies are at home for the first time when they play a doubleheader against the Belgrade Panthers on April 7.