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Winter Remains, but the Ponies plan to Play Ball

HHS softball team can't see the Sixth Avenue Field yet, but they're getting ready anyway

 

March 21, 2018

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre High's Janae Boles catches a pitch inside the batting cage at the HHS gymnasium last week. Blue Pony softball season started last Monday, but, with winter hanging on in Havre, the Ponies have been forced to practice indoors every day thus far.

There is no question that in terms of snow and cold, this has been one of the worst winters Havre has seen in quite some time. And all that snow and ice is having a pretty big impact on what is supposed to be spring sports season.

When all you see outside is snow everywhere, it can be easy to forget, that Tuesday was officially the first day of spring. Even wilder is the idea that practice for all spring sports teams has been going for more than a week now.

As you can imagine, with the weather the way it's been, that's been an adventure.

Of course, spring athletes and coaches who participate in tennis, track and softball are somewhat used to this. Spring in Montana, after all, is normally pretty adventurous. Practicing indoors, postponing games and tournaments are all part of the norm. However, this year, it's an entirely different animal and no one is really sure what the final result will be.

"We haven't been outside at all," new Havre High softball head coach Tony Vigliotti said. "It's been difficult, but we will get there."

Fortunately, the Havre softball team, which started practicing March 12, doesn't have any games to play until March 30, when the season-opening jamboree in Great Falls in set to be played.

Vigliotti said he wasn't sure if the season would get started on time, realizing that many other places along the Hi-Line, have also been hit hard. The junior varsity team is scheduled to play, even before the varsity team, March 29 in Cut Bank.

"I don't know," Vigliotti said about his team being able to play in Great Falls next weekend. "I am sure that up and down the Hi-Line, Glasgow and Cut Bank, it has been about the same."

What makes things even more difficult for Vigliotti, is the fact that he's a first-year head coach. Certainly, he has been able to get to know some of his players during offseason workouts, but with practice time already limited, it makes it more difficult for both the players and coaches to adapt.

However, in a sense, Vigliotti and the Pony softball team have a greater ability than any other sport to simulate an actual practice. While the Ponies have been unable to practice outside due to the snow and cold, the Havre High School got some upgrades a few years ago and one of the additions was an indoor batting cage. Pitchers, catchers and hitters have been utilizing it for months in the offseason, working to get better, but now it's become a key part of each practice for the Ponies.

"With those batting cages, we can get a lot of stuff done," Vigliotti said. "Pitchers can go in there. We have also been doing a lot of hitting stuff. We can also practice some defensive things in the gym, so we are getting done what we need to get done."

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

A view of the Sixth Avenue Memorial Field Tuesday afternoon in Havre. Though temperatures are starting to creep up, plenty of snow remains, and much of the softball field is covered in deep snow and ice.

Yet, as much as Vigliotti and the softball team can simulate a game-like atmosphere, there is only so much substituting you can do. Taking fly balls, fielding grounders, trying to turn double plays, a lot of those things can only be done on a ball field and unfortunately, that just isn't an option right now.

As of Tuesday, the Ponies were still practicing inside, but with the forecast predicting better temperatures, things could be moving from inside Havre High gymnasium, to outside at the Sixth Avenue Memorial Field before you know it.

"We are hoping sometime in the middle of this week," Vigliotti said. "At some point, I am just hoping we can even find a patch of grass, just so we can start taking some fly balls. Hopefully, we will get there soon."

Note: This is the second installement in a series of stories on winter weather affecting spring sports. For more, see Thursday's HDN.

 

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