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2013 Central A Softball: Ponies hope home field will pay off

If the 2013 softball season had ended, the Havre High softball team would be done.

But fortunately for the Central A Blue Ponies, they get one last shot at making the Class A state softball tournament. The Ponies finished the conference portion of the season with a 3-5 record, but as the No. 4 team. And with only the top three teams making the state tournament, HHS will hopefully utilize the conference's first divisional tournament to turn their luck around, and make the state tournament.

Havre High's Tori Mazurkiewicz smacks the ball during a recent Central A softball game in Havre. The Blue Ponies will host the first ever Central A Divisional Friday-Saturday at the Sixth Avenue Memorial Field. The tournament will feature Belgrade, Lewistown, Livingston, Havre and Browning, and the top three teams will advance to next week's Class A state tournament.

The Central A divisional tournament will run Friday and Saturday at the Sixth Avenue Memorial Field in Havre. The No. 1 Lewistown Golden Eagles, No. 2 Livingston Rangers, No. 3 Belgrade Panthers, No. 4 Ponies, and No. 5 Browning Indians will all battle for the top three spots this weekend. This is the first-ever Central A tourney and the Ponies are thrilled to play it at home.

"I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to play in a divisional tournament," Havre High head coach Danny Wirtzberger said. "We are the only division in Class A that is actually doing it, and it works out great for us. We are ranked fourth in the conference, so if the season were to end right now, we wouldn't be going to state. We have nothing to lose, we are the No. 4 team, we get to go out and just play hard."

Friday at 10 a.m., the Ponies will face the Indians. If the Ponies can get past the Indians, they will then face the Eagles on Friday at 2 p.m. If the Ponies lose to Lewistown at 2 p.m., they will play a third game on Friday at 6 p.m., opponent to be determined. A win over Lewistown would automatically put the Ponies in the state tournament, as well as in the divisional semifinals, facing the winner of the Ranger/Panther game that will be played at 12 p.m. on Friday.

And while the Ponies have to face the last-place Indians in the opening round on Friday, Browning is not the Ponies' concern.

The Indians are as down as they have been in recent years, and once again went winless against this field of conference opponents. They struggle with pitching, batting, and defense, and shouldn't be too much of a hurdle for the Ponies. And while it is unorthodox to look past an opponent, the Ponies have made it very clear, they are focused on getting a win over the Eagles on Friday afternoon.

"We are going to see Lewistown at 2 p.m.," Wirtzberger said. "There is no doubt about that. And my plan against Browning will to either bunt the whole time, or get our subs in as soon as possible so that we don't mess up our swing for Lewistown. We are really concentrating on Lewistown, and I know you aren't supposed to look past teams, but we know what Browning has, and we have really been focused on Lewistown all week."

Lewistown swept the Ponies in the regular season by scores of 14-4 and 9-4, but the Ponies showed they can push the Eagles to the brink. The Ponies were one bad inning away from a win over the Eagles before suffering the 9-4 loss, and like their chances in the third meeting.

But it will be anything but easy. Cassie Miller is an outstanding pitcher and batter for the Eagles, and should make it very tough for the Ponies. They also add Slyssa Yaeger, Jessica Kindzerski, and Nadia Robertson to the mix of talented ball players that make the Eagles a fundamentally sound ball club. And I the two wins over HHS, the Eagles proved they don't make many mistakes, but take full advantage of any mistakes from the opposition.

But the Rangers and Panthers will also make for a tough outing for the Ponies.

The Rangers also swept the Ponies in the regular season by scores of 12-2 and 9-0. One bad inning was also a foe of the Ponies in the 9-0 loss, as the Ponies held the Rangers to just one run through five innings of play. Haylee Dowdell is the Rangers' ace that should lead the way again this weekend. The Panthers are led by the likes of Kristina West in the pitching circle, but also have a very talented and deep roster. The Panthers and Ponies split on the regular season, including a 3-1 win and 10-5 loss for the Ponies. Autumn Rollins, Taylor Johnson, Sllison Slstrom, Joey Severson and Rylee Cygan give the Panthers the ability to put up a lot of runs.

HHS battled through a long season, but feel they are on a level playing field at this point.

After starting the season with five losses out of the first seven jamboree games they played, the Ponies begin to settle in. They followed with solid non conference wins over Glasgow and Conrad before entering conference play, and even began to play their best softball at the end of the season. At the Butte Central Invite, the Ponies won four games to end the season, and are now prepared to take their momentum into the post season.

"Everybody is back to square one," Wirtzberger said. "You have to win two games to get to state, so that is what we have our eye on. We have had a great week of practice, and our goal is to be playing on Saturday. Everybody on the team is thinking about that, and I expect us to play very well. Nobody wants to play us right now, we are playing very well right now.

"Although we didn't beat Livingston or Lewistown," Wirtzberger added. "This divisional tournament is going to be a tossup. Any of the top four teams can beat each other, and they are four good teams."

Havre will get the tournament started on Friday when they face Browning at 10 a.m.

2013 Central A Softball

Tournament

(Three Teams Advance)

Sixth Avenue Memorial Field

FRIDAY

Game 1: Havre vs. Browning – 10 a.m.

Game 2: Livingston vs. Belgrade – 12 p.m.

Game 3: Lewistown vs. Winner Game 1 - 2 p.m.

Game 4: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 – 4 p.m.

Game 5: Loser Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4 – 6 p.m.

SATURDAY

Game 6: Winner 2 vs. Winner Game 3 – 11 a.m.

Game 7: Loser Game 6 vs. Winner Game 5 – 1 p.m.

Championship: Winner Game 6 vs. Winner Game 7 – 3 p.m. (If Necessary: 5 p.m.)

 

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