POLSON — The Havre High girls softball program had to wait five years between trips to the Class A state tournament. But once the Blue Ponies got there, they wasted little time in making a statement.
In the opening round of the 2014 Class A state tournament in Polson, the Blue Ponies rode a Dani Wagner 3-run home run to a 7-5 win over Miles City Thursday. However, the victory over the Cowgirls was the Ponies’ only win, and while head coach Dan Wirtzberger was ecstatic about his victory, and how his team played, he also noted the Ponies still have work to do if they want to compete with the best-of-the-best in Class A.
Following the win over the Cowgirls, Havre was beaten by eventual champion Frenchtown, 9-0, Thursday afternoon, then was eliminated by Butte Central Friday morning.
“The win over Miles City was a huge step for us,” Wirtzberger said. “It’s huge for this team and for this program.
“I’m really happy with the way the girls played overall,” he continued. “We proved we can win on the first day of the state tournament. But we also have a ways to go yet. We have to prove we can win on Friday and get to Saturday, still. And that will be the goal for this team next season. To get to Saturday and compete for a trophy.”
Thursday was indeed a day the Ponies proved a lot, to themselves, and to the rest of Class A. The Ponies fell behind the Cowgirls 2-0 in the first inning, but after that, junior pitcher Rachel Majeres started to settle in in the circle. And in the third inning, HHS got on the board in a big way. Majeres helped her own cause by driving in Jordyn Warren, and then Wagner delivered the first of two big blows. The sophomore center fielder smacked a shot to the gap that drove in two more HHS runs, lifting the Ponies to a 3-2 lead.
From there, the two teams traded a couple of runs, including Shania Carlson delivering a big RBI in the fourth inning. But the Ponies found themselves trailing 5-4 in the top of the sixth inning and the at-bats were starting to run out. But that’s when Wagner hit the biggest shot of Havre’s season. With two runners on, Wagner blasted a homer to right field, sending it crashing into the scoreboard and ultimately sending Havre to a coveted state tournament win. The three-run belt turned out to be the game-winner as Majeres shut out the Cowgirls over the final two innings.
“It felt really good,” Wagner said of her game-winning HR. “I didn’t have a very good at-bat the time before, so I just wanted to correct my swing, and it worked out way better that time.
“It hasn’t happened in a while,” she added about Havre’s victory. “So it’s really special. We’re all pretty excited right now.
Majeres earned the win for the Ponies, striking out five Cowgirls and scattering just five hits. She also went 2-for-4 at the dish with an RBI. Wagner was 2-for-4 as well with a double, a homer and five RBIs, while Warren went 3-for-4 with three runs scored.
“To come here and win a game, it takes a team effort,” Wirtzberger said. “And this win was a total team effort, that included everybody on our roster. But we wouldn’t be here with out Dani Wagner today either. She had two huge hits, five RBIs and she played great in center field. Rachel Majeres pitched phenomenally well, also. She was very poised out there the entire game. And Shania Carlson always comes up clutch for us, and she did again today. And what she does behind the dish for us, it’s incredible, game after game.
“This is a big win for our program, and I’m so proud of these kids right now,” he continued. It’s a great day to be a Blue Pony.”
Havre’s success at the state tournament wouldn’t last the rest of Thursday, at least as far as wins go. But a 9-0 loss at the hands of Frenchtown star pitcher Morgan Ray and the eventual state champion Broncs didn’t dampen the Ponies’ spirits any.
Ray, who is a top collegiate pitching prospect, allowed just one Paige Henderson hit, while striking out 14 Blue Ponies. And while Havre only trailed 3-0 after three inning, thanks to some more stellar pitching by Majeres, the Broncs were too much with Ray in the circle. Frenchtown added six runs over the final two innings to knock Havre into the loser-out bracket.
“Honestly, I thought we played a really good game,” Wirtzberger said. “Morgan Ray is a tremendous pitcher and she pitched that way against us. Frenchtown is a great club with really good ball players, and they showed that today. But I thought Rachel Majeres pitched extremely well, too, and so did Dani Wagner when she came in. I don’t really think we could have played much better in these two games today (Thursday). So we’re leaving this field with a lot of confidence and with our heads up right now.”
Havre returned to the Polson softball complex Friday morning with their heads held high, but the Ponies ran into a Butte Central buzzsaw.
Early on, Havre was the aggressor at the plate and on the base paths, and the Ponies staked themselves to a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Majeres was in the circle yet again, and through the course of the contest, found herself locked in a pitcher’s duel with BC’s Molly Boggs. And though Majeres pitched outstandingly, the Ponies found the fourth inning to be their undoing.
The Maroons batted around in the lineup, and wound up scoring eight runs, only four them earned as the Pony defense committed four difficult errors in the inning. That left the score at 8-1, and Havre’s bats wouldn’t get going the rest of the way as Boggs threw a three-hit gem and sent the Ponies home.
“It’s a tough way to end the state tournament. Butte Central is a scrappy little team.” Wirtzberger said. “It’s always tough to say goodbye to two seniors like we have. Those senior captains have been amazing and they are a huge part of why we got here, due to what they have put into the program.”
In Havre’s season finale, Majeres, Warren and Jacey McDonald each tallied one hit for the Ponies, while Majeres crossed the dish for HHS’s lone run. In the circle, she was again stellar, allowing just five Butte Central hits, while striking out eight Maroons.
And though the season ended with the 9-1 loss at the hands of the Maroons, Wirtzberger couldn’t have been more proud of what his Ponies accomplished this spring, and also more excited for what the future holds. Havre returns a huge senior and junior class for next season, and the Ponies could really be a force to be reckoned with.
“This was a tough loss,” Wirtzberger said. “But this loss in no way takes away from what this team has done this season, and at this tournament. I’m very proud of these girls for everything they’ve this season. They have worked very hard to get to where they are now, and they should all be very proud of what they’ve achieved.
“And with what we have coming back, and with how hard these girls have worked already,” he continued. “The next couple of years should be a lot of fun too.”
Frenchtown went on to beat Central A stalwart Belgrade in the Class A state championship game, while Libby finished third.
Havre 7, Miles City 5
Miles City 202 010 0 – 5 7 x
Havre 003 013 x – 7 14 x
W – Majerus. L – Wolfe.
MILES CITY – Petroff 1-4, Niedge 3-4, Helland 0-4, Richards 0-3, Selk 1-3, Davis 1-3, Ogolin 0-3, Hill 0-3, Swope 1-3.
HAVRE – M. Mazaurkiewicz 0-5, Boucher 0-5, Henderson 1-4, Majeres 3-4, Wagner 4-4, Carlson 1-4, T. Mazurkeiwicz 1-4, Boucher 0-1, Warren 3-4, McDonald 1-3.
2B – Majeres, Wagner. HR – Wagner. RBIs – Niedge 2; Wagner 5, Carlson.
Frenchtown 9, Havre 0
Havre 000 000 0 - 0 1 4
Frenchtown 001 233 x - 9 12 0
WP-M. Ray. LP-R. Majeres.
HAVRE - M. Mazurkiewicz 0-2, S. Boucher 0-3, P. Henderson 1-3, R. Majeres 0-3, D. Wagner 0-3, J. MacDonold 0-2, T. Mazurkiewicz 0-1, S. Huston 0-1, S. Carlson 0-2, J. Warren 0-1, C. Bohn 0-1.
FRENCHTOWN - K. Blood 1-4, J. Anderson 2-4, M. Ray 2-4 (2 rbi), V. Stavish 1-4 (rbi), K. Wickman 1-3, K. Hebnes 2-3 (rbi), B. Yarnall 0-3, K. Prather 2-3, E. Pyron 1-3.
Butte Central 9, Havre 1
Havre High junior Paige Henderson rounds second base during the Blue Ponies' game against Butte Central Friday morning at the State A softball tournament in Polson.
Havre 010 000 0 – 1 2 n/a
B. Central 000 801 0 – 9 7 n/a
W – Boggs. L – Materus.
HAVRE – Mazurkiewicz 0-3, Boucher 0-3, Henderson 0-3, Majeres 1-3, Wagner 0-3, McDonald 1-3, T. Mazurkiewicz 0-2, Zarlson 0-2, Warren 0-2.
BUTTE CENTRAL – Hjelt 1-5, Paffhausen 2-4, Wahl 0-2, Peoples 0-3, Holm 0-3, McGree 2-3, Baggs 0-3, Green 1-3, St. John 1-3.
2B – McDonald.