When it comes to going to the state tournament or having the season end early, all the Havre High softball program can do is sit back and wait. But in the mean time, the Blue Ponies can also utilize these jam-packed weekends to continue improving just in case.
Win or lose this weekend, the Ponies' state hopes still depend on what the conference Lewistown Golden Eagles and Livingston Rangers do on Tuesday. If the Rangers win the Ponies will not make the state tournament, but if the Eagles win, completing the season sweep over the Rangers, the Ponies’ state trip will come down to a coin toss.
“We are still waiting for the results of Tuesday’s matchup between Lewistown and Livingston, so we know if we are going to state or not,” Havre High head coach Mike Thill said. “That takes all pressure off because it is out of our hands, so hopefully we can go in there and play well, just like we have been practicing.”
Last week the Central A Ponies played three games, including two over the weekend at the Havre Invitational. And this weekend, the Ponies will continue to pile on the games as they make the trip to the Butte Central Invite in Butte, where they will play four different opponents. Today the Ponies will play two non-conference opponents, with games against Corvallis and Anaconda. And on Saturday, the Ponies will play two more non-conference games against Whitefish and Hamilton.
The Ponies have not seen any of these teams out of the west.
But what they do know is that all four squads are solid, and it is going to take near perfect play for the Ponies to return home with some wins. Corvallis has beaten teams like the powerful Belgrade this season, while Hamilton has already clinched their conference. Anaconda is a stay contender year in and year out, leaving just Whitefish who has had their share of struggles over the last couple of seasons. Last season at the Ponies defeated Whitefish in their only meeting at the Butte Central Invite.
Not knowing a whole lot about the completion doesn’t bother the Ponies, as this late in the season they what they need to do to be successful. Never mind the fact that the Ponies start four freshmen, inexperience should no longer be an issue this late in the season. So headed into four very tough games, HHS knows they have to heavily rely on their pitching and defense if they want to find some success.
Rachel Majeres and Davee McLeod will handle the pitching duties this weekend and keeping the batters at bay will be key. The Ponies have gotten caught in some scoring battles, but unfortunately haven’t had the bats to come out on the winning end as much as they would have liked. If Majeres and McLeod can shut down the lineups, and if the defense can make the necessary plays behind them, the Ponies chances of grabbing a couple wins greatly improve. Errors on routine plays have haunted the Ponies off and on this season and will definitely be a factor against the level of competition they will face the next two days.
“Hopefully we can play relaxed,” Thill said. “This point in the season things should just kick in, and we should do a better job making the routine plays that we have been making mistakes on. And I would like to see our pitchers shut some of these teams down. We can’t keep trying to outscore everybody we play. In the Glasgow game we came out and hit, but we still gave up too many runs on our mistakes. Either our defense needs to make some plays behind, or the pitchers need to make some outs for themselves.”
When the bats do get hot, Harlee Boucher, Morgan Mazurkiewicz, Paige Henderson, Mary Lyons and Michaela Boles have been getting in on the action, and should look to do so again. If they can also play well on defense, the runs they score on offense will carry the team much further. And if the entire team can play as well as they have been practicing, the Ponies have to like their chances.
“They have been having excellent practices,” Thill said. “They have made every routine play as well as the tough plays, so hopefully they can turn around and do some of that in a game.”
Today the Ponies will face Corvallis and Anaconda. And Saturday they will face Whitefish and Hamilton. All four non-conference games will take place in Butte at the Butte Central Invite.