Over the last half of a decade, the Havre High softball team has not been able to defeat the conference rival Lewistown Golden Eagles. It has been a frustrating Central A rivalry for the Blue Ponies, one that has finally come to an exciting end.
After the annual Havre Invitational was canceled Saturday due to rain, the conference game between the Ponies and Eagles was rescheduled to Monday at the Sixth Avenue Memorial Field in Havre. And after loss, after loss, after loss at the hands of the Eagles, the Ponies finally turned the tables with an 11-8 victory at home. The win is a huge step in the right direction as the Ponies are still in the hunt for a state tournament berth, also boosting the HHS record to 3-2 in the conference, and 5-2 overall.
“We had to postpone this game Saturday,” Havre High head coach Danny Wirtzberger said. “But it was worth the wait. It has been six years since Havre has beaten Lewistown, and this feels fantastic. But after the game, our girls were focused, they know we have to play them again Friday at their place, and they know this game could have gone either way. Lewistown is a fantastic hitting ball club, but today, we were better. But I hope this puts it in our girls’ heads that we are good. I don’t want them overconfident, but they need to know we can play with these teams.”
But despite grabbing the win, there were some shaky moments for the Ponies. Fortunately, the Pony bats have gotten hot over the last couple of games and remained hot Monday afternoon.
Scoring runs in bunches was key for the Ponies, especially when facing a pitcher like Cassi Miller, one of the best in the Central A. The explosive run support allowed the defense to overcome a handful of errors and a couple shaky innings, as well as allowed Rachel Majeres to pitch relaxed and also overcome a couple of bad breaks. The Ponies scored their 11 runs on 16 hits and zero Eagle errors, including a one run homerun by Paige Henderson in the first inning, and a one run homerun by Shaniah Carlson in the sixth, a rare two-homerun outing for the newly revitalized Ponies.
“Whenever we needed hits we got them,” Wirtzberger said. “And we never lost the lead. Rachel just had to throw a lot of strikes, she didn’t have to be right on her spots today because we gave her that leeway with our defense and with our ability to hit the ball and score runs.
“The run support was great today because I hit a few people,” Majeres added. “But they had my back. It is good to know that we can score when we need too. I know my freshman and sophomore years, it seemed like we couldn’t hit at all, but now we are hitting (at a high level), and I think we will stay up there. It helps me play relaxed, and just throw.”
After jumping out to a 3-0 lead through the first two innings, the Ponies got a scare in the top of the third. After the Eagles loaded the bases with one out in the first quarter, the Ponies were fortunate to have only given up three runs in the top of the third frame. HHS committed four errors in the inning, while Majeres gave up just two single base hits. The Havre lead turned into a three all tie, but the Ponies bounced right back in the fourth. HHS shut out the Eagles in the top of the fourth, but scored five more runs in the bottom half.
This time the Ponies strung together five hits. Jordyn Warren and Dani Wagner started the inning with back-to-back walks, chasing starting pitcher, Comes, from the ballgame. Carley Carpenter didn’t do much better in relief, as Henderson followed Harlee Boucher’s sacrifice bunt with a two RBI double. Majeres (RBI) and Scout Boucher also hit back-to-back singles following Henderson, while Carlson drove in another run with a hard hit groundout. With two outs and a 7-3 lead, Tori Mazurkiewicz also hit an RBI single to extend the lead to 8-3, while Morgan Mazurkiewicz followed with a single, and Warren ended the barrage of hits and runs with a groundout in her second appearance in the inning.
Lewistown got three more runs on three hits and an HHS error in the top of the fifth to close to the gap to 8-6. But every time the Eagles would make up some ground, the Ponies took it right back. Havre scored three more runs in the sixth inning to stretch the lead back out to 11-6. The Ponies also had the bottom of the seventh to use if they had too, but it wasn’t needed, as the Ponies gave up just two runs up two in the top of the seventh before ending the game.
Majeres got the final out on a called strike, but also struck out batters to get the first two outs in the seventh. Majeres finished the game with eight strikeouts and zero walks, and hit three Eagle batters. Majeres also gave up 14 hits and four earned runs as she totaled 128 pitches on the afternoon. The Pony defense did have four errors behind Majeres, but they were all on hard hit balls in the infield. The errors were a factor, but they were errors coach Wirtzberger could live with as his defense played aggressive against a hard hitting Eagles team for seven innings.
And offensively, Henderson continues to shine for the Ponies, going 2-for-3 with one walk, three RBIs, while also scoring two runs. Henderson also had a double to go with her solo homerun. Scout Boucher, Tori Mazurkiewicz, and Morgan Mazurkiewicz also each went 3-for-4, with Tori Mazurkiewicz also grabbing one RBI. Majeres had two hits in the game with one RBI, while Wagner, Harlee Boucher and Carlson finished with one hit each. Wagner and Carlson had two RBIs each.
“The defense is playing hard right now,” Wirtzberger said. “And that is what we expect, to play hard every single play. But the errors that we got today, they weren’t bad errors; they were on tough plays on hard hit balls. Nothing sticks out to me as errors that we should be concerned about. But Bob Evans does a fantastic job working with our hitters every day. A game like this is a tribute to him and what he does. And Mark Majeres also does a great job with our pitchers, and Rachel (Majeres) was consistent all day, so he deserves some of that credit, too.”
It is a busy week for the HHS softball team. Today the Ponies will face the CMR junior varsity in Great Falls. The Ponies will also face Lewistown in Lewistown Friday, followed by a conference doubleheader with Livingston Saturday in Havre.
Havre's Jordyn Warren throws a ball in during Monday's game at the Sixth Avenue Memorial Field.
Havre 11, Lewistown 8
Lewistown 003 030 2 – 8 14 0
Havre 120 503 x – 11 16 4
WP – Rachel Majeres; LP – Cassi Miller
Lewistown – Teale Danell 1-5 RBI, Ali Gremaux 1-2 RBI, Maddie Comes 2-5 RBI, Cassi Miller 3-5 RBI, Jessica Kindzerski 2-4, Nora Weichel 0-4, Karlie Southworth 1-3 RBI, Mikayla Comes 0-3, Jessica Gapay 2-3 RBI.
Havre – Dani Wagner 1-3 2RBIs, Harlee Boucher 1-5 RBI, Paige Henderson 2-3 3RBIs, Rachel Majeres 2-4 RBI, Scout Boucher 3-4, Shaniah Carlson 1-4 2RBIs, Tori Mazurkiewicz 3-4 RBI, Morgan Mazurkiewicz 3-4, Jordyn Warren 0-2 RBI.