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Ponies stampede their way to home wins

 


Daniel Horton Havre Daily News [email protected]

It wasn't a hundred percent clear how the Havre High softball team was going to react to four games in two days, especially after the Blue Ponies went two weeks without any competition at all. And though the Ponies went 2-2 on the weekend, they played outstanding softball through four games at home. On Friday evening, the conference rival Columbia Falls Wildkats defeated the Ponies 7-5. And on Saturday morning at the Havre Invitational, the Wildkats defeated the Ponies 2-1 in an even closer matchup. Then, in back-to-back games Saturday afternoon at the Sixth Avenue Memorial Softball Field, the Ponies defeated the Conrad Cowgirls 11-2 and the Cut Bank Wolves 11-2, both games ending due to time restraints. “We had two tough games and two easier games,” Havre High head coach Bob Evans said. “But that's all right too, we used all our girls and everybody saw playing time. All of our kids played well again.” In Friday's conference game against the Wildkats, the Ponies started out shaky in the top of the first inning, giving up three runs on three straight hits. But in the bottom of the first, the Ponies answered back with three runs of their own. Karly Evans and Samantha Mack reached base with back-to-back doubles, and with two outs, Natalie Kato knocked both runs in with a single. And after Kato stole second base, she was able to score the tying run on a Wildkat throwing error. But the big bats came out again for the Wildkats in the fourth. Cassidee Skiles crushed a two-run home run over the left field fence and gave her team a 5-3 lead over the Ponies. The Wildkats extended their lead to 6-3 in the top of the fifth, but Holly Cartwright drove in Amanda Hanson in the bottom of the fifth to cut the lead back to two. But the Wildkats always had an answer for the Ponies. And in the seventh inning, the Wildcats tacked on another security run to go up 7-4. Cartwright would score on another hit by Mack for the Ponies, but 7-5 was as close as the Ponies would land. “It was just great ball played by both teams,” Evans said. “The game was well played and I think we could have just as easily won it. We had runners on bases and we hit the ball hard, they just happened to make the right plays.” And while the Ponies kept Saturday's game with the Wildkats closer, they still couldn't find any holes in the Wildkats defense. The Ponies were hitting the ball hard in the air and on the ground, but they just couldn't manufacture any base hits or runs. The Wildkats took an early lead on Saturday, but this time getting their runs in the bottom of the second and third innings. In the second, they scored one run on three hits, and in the third they scored one run on one hit and an error to take a 2-0 lead over the Ponies. “We made a bad throw, and we didn't get the coverage we were supposed to,” Evans said. “It's tough to lose those kind of games, but when we played as well as we did, what can you say.” Going into the fifth inning it was still only a two-run deficit for the Ponies. But prior to the fifth, the Ponies had only two base hits, and they really needed to get something going. With two outs, Cartwright gave the Ponies a spark when she drove in Cortney Bricker with an RBI triple. Trailing 2-1, Karly Evans did what she could on the mound, keeping the Wildkats scoreless in the fifth and sixth. But while the Ponies were still hitting the ball hard, the Wildkats' defense stayed impenetrable through the sixth and seventh inning. “I think that's about the only time we have been in a 2-1 ball game since we started our program,” Evans said. “Karly Evans pitched well and when you get into those kinds of games and you lose, you can't feel too bad because it was so well played.” A big part of the Ponies' struggle to manufacture runs against the Wildkats can be credited to pitcher Morgan Rowe. She didn't record many strikeouts against the Ponies, but she forced a lot of ground balls and pop-ups. “She threw the ball well,” Evans said. “She wasn't overpowering but she threw the ball well.” In the two games against the Wildkats, Mack went 3-for-7 with an RBI while Cartwright went 2-for-8 with two RBIs and a triple. Kato also recorded two RBIs for the Ponies. HHS had a little more luck with hits in their second and third games on Saturday, when the Ponies defeated both the Cowgirls and the Wolves 11-2. “We needed that,” Evans said. “We needed some hard games and we needed those other games.” Against the Cowgirls, the Ponies started the game unlike their normal composed selves. The Cowgirls scored two runs in the first inning on a strike out-stolen base, an error and one hit. And though they would be the only runs they would score, they were runs the Ponies shouldn't have given up. “It always makes you mad when they score runs on strikeouts,” Evans said. “If they are base hits its one thing.” From that point on the game belonged to the Ponies. In the first inning the Ponies took 4-2 lead on two walks and four hits, with RBIs going to Kelli Kelsey, Bricker and Paighton Gilman. In the second inning HHS added two more runs on two more hits, while they added five more runs in the fourth on four hits. Gilman went 3-for-3 and had an RBI, while Cartwright, Myers, Abi Ita and Kelsey all ended with an RBI as well. Against the Wolves, the Ponies gave up another run in the first inning after a couple of walks and a sacrifice ground ball. “It was a little hard to get as focused as I would have liked in our last two ball games,” Evans said. “But I think they knew they were better, and that it was just a matter of time until they beat someone. It was hard for them to get fired up.” But the Ponies quickly regained their composure and took a 2-1 lead in the second inning on a hit, an error and a sacrifice fly. And after the Wolves tied the game at 2-2 in the third, the Ponies once again looked to their hot bats for a boost. Cartwright recaptured the lead for the Ponies on an RBI double, and after three innings were in the books they led 5-2. In the fourth inning, Chelsea Nottingham drove in a run, and in the fifth the Ponies drove in five more to get their second straight 11-2 victory. Myers, Gilman, Nottingham, Kato, Bricker and Andrea Nault all had RBIs against the Wolves, while Cartwright knocked in two more RBIs for the Ponies. After splitting the weekends four games, including going 2-1 in their own invitational, the Ponies are still sitting in good position as the state tournament draws closer and closer. They have moved to 7-2 overall and 5-2 in conference play. “Last year at this time we were 1-8,” Evans said. “And we have four more conference wins right now than we had last year at this time. That's a big help, and we are in much better shape.” The Blue Ponies pitching and defense also played well again this weekend. And While Tabitha Myers and Karly Evans suffered their first losses of the season; Myers and Ita were both able to add another notch to the win column. “I thought we got outstanding pitching this weekend,” Evans said. “They all threw very well. The girls are defi- nitely getting better, they are throwing in the zones better and all three of the girl's changeups are getting better. I was very happy.” It was a long weekend for HHS, but after cancellations the four games were much-needed for the Ponies. They faced some good teams and played a lot of good softball. And now the Ponies gear up for another long weekend, when they head to Butte Friday and Saturday for the Butte Central Invitational where they will play four more games.

 

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