By George Ferguson
Montana's top men's fastpitch softball teams will invade Havre Friday night to battle for the state championship beginning at 7 p.m. at the Sixh Avenue Memorial Field.
Teams from Havre, Billings, Missoula and Great Falls will comprise a 12-team double-elimination tournament with three automatic berths to the American Softball Association Level C national tournament in Sacramento, Calif., at stake. The champion, runner-up and consolation game winners will be given automatic bids to the national tournament because the Northwest regional tournament that was to be held in Spokane, Wash., later in August was canceled.
The top contenders for this year's title include defending champion Halftime Lounge-UAS of Great Falls as well as Master Sports 1 and Master Sports 2 of Havre and Stitches-Silver Dollar of Missoula. Those teams all boast strong pitchers, including Master Sports 1's Gary Joe Evans, a Havre native who has long since been considered the best pitcher in the state. Master Sports 2 goes with a combination of Dave Peterson and Ron Petrick, and Stitches-Silver Dollar is led by Havre native Ryan Divish. Defending champion Great Falls also has one of the better pitchers in the state in Tim Preston.
The rest of the field includes Arby's and the Elbow Room from Missoula, Taco Johns of Havre, the BECC Bolts and Ryans Station of Great Falls, as well as Stadium Club, Frontier Paint-TireRama and Meadow Gold-Tiny's of Billings.
The action gets under way with two games Friday night at 7 and 8:30 p.m. at the Sixth Avenue field and continues Saturday at 8 a.m. at Sixth Avenue and at 9:30 a.m. at Lions Field, and will all finish with the championship game scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday at the Sixth Avenue field.