With the hope of a state tournament berth still very much alive for the Havre softball team, the next couple of weeks will make or break the Blue Ponies season.
Havre has been locked up with Livingston for the third place team all season long. And now that Livingston has suffered a loss to Lewistown (the No. 2 team), and the Ponies can build on those chances with another big win this weekend.
Havre lost to Lewistown 13-2 in a Thursday game in Lewistown.
The Ponies will face the Lewistown Eagles again, this time hosting them at 9:30 a.m. The Ponies will also host Glasgow at 12:30 p.m. Both games will be at the Sixth Avenue Memorial field in Havre on Saturday as part of the Havre Invitational.
The Rangers have already suffered one loss to the Eagles this season, so if the Ponies do fall today, they still have a shot at state. But that would require the Rangers to lose their second matchup to the Eagles, as well as require the Ponies to defeat the Eagles on Saturday. If the Ponies are swept by Lewistown, their post season hopes may end up coming down to the flip of a coin, as they will still be tied for third with the Rangers.
“If we could get that win over Lewistown,” Thill said. “We would be ahead of Livingston. I have that feeling, that if it came down to a coin flip and you lost, that you didn’t deserve to go to state, you didn’t earn your way in anyway."
The Eagles seem to be very well balanced, with the ability to beat solid programs, but show the ability to be beaten as well. Lewistown holds wins over teams like Columbia Falls this season, but has suffered narrow losses to Hardin and Billings Central. But the Eagles didn’t dominate the Rangers in their first game this season, so the Ponies do know this is a winnable game, as the Ponies and Rangers have gone 1-1 in their head to head matchups this season.
But with the Eagles having good pitching, good offensive production and solid defense this season, that isn’t going to be easy. HHS can’t commit double digit errors like they did early in the season, and have to play lockdown defense like they have over their last several games. Good pitching from Rachel Majers and Davee McLeod will also be key, as they will hopefully get plenty of run support from an offense that has gotten hotter as of late.
The good new for the Ponies, they a second shot at Lewistown bright and early Saturday morning in Havre. HHS will have a better idea of how to attack the Eagles and will be able to make the necessary adjustment that will hopefully equal a Blue Pony win.
Nadja Robertson, Allie Adams, Teal Danell and Maddie Comes are just a few of the Eagles’ top offensive producers, and Adams and Comes have already shown homerun capability this season.
“That is the game plan going in,” Thill said. “We only really know what we know about them from scores in the paper. And I also know they only lost to Belgrade 5-0, when we lost to Belgrade 40-0 in two games. Right now on paper they are 30 runs better than us and we have to cut that number down.”
After two straight games against the Eagles, the Ponies will also face the Class B Glasgow Scotties on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The Scotties are another tough non conference team that will challenge the Ponies, as they had 12 freshman a year ago, and should return much more experienced.
“We should be able to go out there and play more relaxed,” Thill said. “But even though they are a Class B team, I know they have a solid nucleus coming back and it will be nice for us to be able to go out have another solid home game.”
But Saturday’s game against the Scotties will also be a time to honor this years’ Blue Pony seniors. Michaela Boles, Clarissa Martin and Masha Barnekoff are the three seniors this season, and have all played key roles. Boles has been very effective in center field this season, as well as from the plate as the leadoff batter. And Barnekoff has done her part to lock down left field, making the Ponies outfield very experienced this season. Martin has taken on the role of a utility player more so than ever this season, and she too has helped lead the Ponies, playing where she is needed, when she is needed.
“Hopefully we can do a lot of good things and send our seniors out with a win,” Thill said.
But playing the Eagles or the Scotties, the Ponies need to play well. They came out explosive in their last two wins over the Rangers and Browning Indians, and they need to keep that style up. The pitching has been good, but the Ponies’ bats need to help take the pressure off. Harlee Boucher is coming off of a 3-fo-4, 2RBI outing, while Boles, Mary Lyons, Morgan Mazurkiewicz and Majers have also been swinging a hot bat.
“We need to start out both games how we did (against Browning),” Thill said. “We need to know that very pitch counts and every bat counts, and just go from there. We have been playing more aggressive and have been doing a lot of live hitting, so hopefully that will improve again, and hopefully we can keep building.”
Saturday the Ponies will host the Eagles at 9:30 a.m. and then the Scotties at 12:30 p.m. Both games on Saturday will be at the Sixth Avenue Memorial field in Havre. The Havre Invite is set to run all day at both the Sixth Avenue and Hopspital fields.
9:30 a.m. – Havre vs Lewistown
11 a.m. – Browning vs Conrad
12:30 p.m. – Havre vs Glasgow
2 p.m. – Glasgow vs Browning
3:30 p.m. – Lewistown vs Conrad
9:45 a.m. – Shelby JV vs Glasgow JV
11:15 a.m. – Havre JV vs
12:30 p.m. Havre JV vs Glasgow JV
1:45 p.m. Shelby JV vs Browning JV