It was clear that the Havre High softball program was hungry for a Class A state tournament berth, especially near the end of the season as the Blue Ponies played their best softball. But as the Central A conference proved to be a very tight race, the Ponies were left out yet again.
The Ponies finished the regular season with a 3-5 conference record, and as the No. 4 seed heading into the first annual Central A divisional softball tournament. The newly decided-on divisional tournament now meant the Ponies had a shot at extending their season after gaining momentum through the regular season. But after a 1-2 weekend, with two very tight, and tough, losses, the Ponies will have to wait until next year to make another state title run.
Friday and Saturday, the Fifth Avenue Memorial Softball Complex in Havre was home to the Lewistown Golden Eagles, Livingston Rangers, Belgrade Panthers, Ponies, and Browning Indians. The Panthers defeated the Rangers 11-5 in the chipper to claim a No. 1 seed. The Rangers are No. 2, while the Eagles finished No. 3, as all three teams will now represent the Central A at the Class A state tournament this weekend in Belgrade.
Havre High got off a great start Friday morning, as the Blue Ponies defeated the Indians 20-0. But the Ponies failed to reach Saturday’s action after suffering two heartbreaking losses in a row. The Eagles defeated the Ponies 5-3 in the quarterfinals Friday afternoon, and the Rangers defeated the Ponies 5-3 in the loser-out bracket Friday evening.
“That was pretty good softball for the Blue Ponies this weekend,” Havre High head coach Danny Wirtzberger said. “Of course we didn’t turn the corner like we wanted to, but we saw a definite improvement in all facets of the game.
“We just aren’t quite there yet,” Wirtzberger added. “And I do feel bad for our seniors, they weren’t able to go to state as seniors. But that doesn’t take away from their accomplishments from the last four years, and Davee McLeod, in my mind, is the MVP of the tournament. She hit a home run and hit .650 on the weekend, and it was fun to watch her and Roxanna Jensen.”
Both losses were tough, not only because they ended the Ponies’ season, but also because the Ponies were in contention right to the end.
The Eagles used three hits in the bottom of the first inning to take an early 3-0 lead over the Ponies, but the more costly runs came in the bottom of the second. Attempting to pick off a base runner at third base, the ball sailed down the third base line, and into left field. The result, two Eagle base runners found their way home.
The Ponies remained in contention with one run in the second and another in the third to keep the score close at 5-2. HHS added one more run in the fifth on a Roxanna Jensen RBI to bring the deficit to 5-3, but the Eagle pitching was too strong to allow a comeback in the final two-inning stretch. In the sixth and seventh innings, the Ponies sent seven batters to the plate, but only got one hit, that coming from Shania Carlson.
Davee McLeod had a solid outing pitching for the Ponies. She kept the Eagle bats at bay and gave up just seven total hits. She also allowed just three total hits in the final five innings, as well as recording two strikeouts.
McLeod kept the Ponies in striking distance, but the pitching by Lewistown’s Cassi Miller made a comeback very difficult for the Ponies. Havre had seven hits and was led by Morgan Mazurkiewicz, who went 2-for-3. Dani Wagner, Jensen, McLeod, Paige Henderson and Carlson all had one hit each, while Jensen and McLeod had one RBI each. McLeod’s RBI hit was an impressive bomb over the left field fence to lead off the second inning, a rare home run for the Ponies.
The loss to the Rangers was also difficult for the Ponies, but this time, the Ponies just couldn’t seem to fend off a comeback effort by the opposition.
“We ran into teams that have seen a few more innings than us,” Wirtzberger said. “That had more at-bats than us, and that had deeper pitching. (Lewistown and Livingston) just have more big game experience than us. Those are both teams that played at state last year, and neither team lost too much from last seasons’ teams. They have a bunch of hitters, and they are tough to beat.”
After a 0-0 ballgame through two innings, the Ponies used three hits and two Ranger errors to take a 3-0 lead in the third. Rachel Majeres had a two RBI single, and McLeod had an RBI single.
But the Rangers added two runs of their own in the bottom of the third, and the comeback trail had begun. The Rangers used two hits to bring the Ponies’ lead to 3-2. In the fourth inning, the Rangers used three more hits to score two runs and take a 4-3. Livingston added one more run in the sixth inning, utilizing two more hits and one Havre error. The Rangers took a 5-3 lead and held on for the win.
The Ponies grabbed three early runs, but the Rangers played strong for the final four innings. HHS attempted some late-game heroics, but the game ended on a close play at home. With two outs in the seventh inning, Jensen got on base with a double. Majeres followed with a base hit into center field, and the Ponies challenged the Rangers to make a play against their speed. Jensen rounded third on the single, but was tagged out just before sliding over home plate.
“In a way,” McLeod said, “yes, that made it tough (to go out like that). I wish we could have at least scored one more run, or tied it and gone a couple more innings, or got the win. But I thought we played phenomenal, and this (divisional tournament) was a great way to go out as a senior.”
Majeres was 2-for-4 with two RBIs to lead the Ponies, while Wagner, Jensen, McLeod, Henderson and Harlee Boucher all had one hit each. McLeod added one RBI.
McLeod also suffered the loss for the Ponies. McLeod pitched the complete game and gave up 10 hits, but recorded four strikeouts.
Majeres got the win against the Indians Friday morning as the Ponies rolled through Browning in the tournament’s opening game.
Scoring 20 runs, including 16 in the first inning, the Ponies had 11 hits and committed zero errors. Wagner, McLeod, and Majeres were each 2-for-2, and combined for five RBIs. But Boucher, Jensen, Morgan Mazurkiewicz, Payton Howard, Reggie Bernard all had one hit each, and combined for six RBIs. Howard had a double for the Ponies, and Liz Facio went hitless but had an RBI on a bases loaded walk.
Jensen and McLeod are the only seniors on the squad this season, and will leave big holes in the Pony lineup. But as HHS came so close to making the state tournament this season, their time has to be coming soon. And if a positive can be taken from this weekend, it is that the Ponies will be back, and much improved from last season.
“The future is pretty bright for Havre High,” Wirtzberger said. “We had a lot of sophomore support, and there was a bunch of good freshmen and sophomores sitting in that dugout this weekend. They are going to practice all summer, they are going to play in city league, and the more at bats they get, the better they will get.”
Havre 20, Browning 0
Havre (16)00 4xx x – 20 11 0
Browning 000 00x x – 0 3 4
WP: Rachel Majeres; LP: Kim Higgins
Havre – Dani Wagner 2-2 2RBIs; Harlee Boucher 1-2 RBI, Roxana Jensen 1-1 RBI, Davee McLeod 2-2 RBI, Rachel Majeres 2-2 2RBIs, Morgan Mazurkiewicz 1-2 2RBIs, Payton Howard 1-1 RBI, Reggie Bernard 1-1 RBI, Liz Facio 0-0 RBI. Doubles – Howad.
Browning – Summer Kennerly 1-3, Kim Higgins 1-2, Gail Crawford 1-2. Doubles – Higgins.
Lewistown 5, Havre 3
Havre 011 010 0 – 3 7 2
Lewistown 320 000 – 5 7 2
WP – Cassi Miller; LP – Davee McLeod
Havre – Dani Wagner 1-3, Roxanna Jensen 1-3 RBI, Davee McLeod 1-3 RBI, Paige Henderson 1-3, Shania Carlson 1-3, Morgan Mazurkiewicz 2-3. Doubles – Jensen, Henderson. Homeruns – McLeod.
Lewistown – Alyssa Yaeger 1-3, Teale Danell 2-3 RBI, Cassi Miller 2-3 RBI, Jessica Kindzerski 1-3, Sydney Wier 1-3. Doubles – Miller, Danell (2).
Livingston 5, Havre 3
Havre 003 000 0 – 3 7 3
Livingston 002 201 – 5 10 2
WP – Haley Dowdell; LP – Davee McLeod
Havre – Dani Wagner 1-3, Roxanna Jensen 1-4, Rachel Majeres 2-4 2RBIs, Davee McLeod 1-3 RBI, Paige Henderson 1-3, Harlee Boucher 1-3.
Livingston – Meghan Gibson 2-3, Jacey Schleicher 1-3 2RBI, Haley Dowdell 1-4 RBI, Meadow Ingram 1-4 2RBIs, Hailey Versland 1-3, Cassidy Versland 1-2, Sierra Higgs 2-3, Alexandra Schaeffer 1-3. Homeruns – Ingram.