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Blue Ponies anxious to play ball

Havre High softball team scheduled to make its season debut Friday


March 29, 2018

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre High senior Alex Barkus and the Blue Pony softball team is hoping to get its season started Friday in Great Falls. The Blue Ponies are under the direction of first-year coach Tony Vigliotti, and are scheduled to play in the Great Falls Jamboree Friday.

Over the years, the Havre High softball team has enjoyed a fair amount of success. But the Blue Ponies have still fallen short of taking that next step to compete for state championships and that's something that new head coach Tony Vigliotti is hoping to change.

Of course, just like with the rest of the spring sports, Vigliotti has run into weather-related issues during his few weeks on the job during the season. However, if the weather cooperates, Vigliotti is set to make his coaching debut Friday at the annual Great Falls Invitational. Of course, the tournament is in doubt due to weather issues, but if it goes on as planned, Vigliotti and the Ponies will be excited to be on a field.

"It will be nice to actually get on a field," Vigliotti said. "We really haven't got any time on the field. We have been outside only twice and not really on a softball field. We have been able to do some fly balls and ground ball on some grass but haven't stepped on any dirt yet. It will just be nice to get on some dirt and see some grass and see where (the girls) are at."

Since he was hired as the head coach, Vigliotti has had his players working a lot in the offseason, utilizing the indoor batting cages at the Havre High School to work on both pitching and hitting. Throughout the years, Havre has put together some solid offensive teams, highlighted by power hitters such as Dani Wagner, Paige Henderson and Jacey McDonald.

While that ability on offense has been great, it hasn't translated to the kind of success the Ponies are hoping for. Havre has been a consistent state tournament team in Class A, but if HHS is going to take the next step and contend for conference or state championships, the pitching has to be better and early on, that has been a big focus for Vigliotti and his staff.

"We have had some really great athletes in the program," Vigliotti said. "But we haven't had that really dominant pitcher that teams that win state championships seem to have. So that's really our focus. That's what we are working to develop."

When it comes to the 2018 season, the Ponies will be relying on two pitchers who both have plenty of experience. Alex Barkus will probably be the No. 1, which is no surprise since she has been a regular starter on the team the past few seasons. Sophomore Sam Oliver should be another regular starter on the mound. Both players will also play in either the infield or outfield when they aren't pitching. The other pitcher for Havre will be Lauren Kato.

Certainly, pitching is key, but scoring runs is also a big part of winning ball games and in Camryn Huston, the Ponies still possess a big-time bat in the middle of their lineup. However, Huston will miss the first couple of weeks due to injury, so the Ponies will have to find a way to score runs without her. But with athletes like Janae Boles at the top of the order, as well as others like Payton Brown and Barkus, Havre has some viable offensive threats, capable of getting on base for power hitters such as Kato and Kinzee Peterson, who will likely see time behind the plate this season. More importantly, she will be a fixture in the lineup after putting together a strong state tournament in 2017.

"Right now, we are still trying to figure things out," Vigliotti said. "We don't really know who is going to play where or where they are going to be in the lineup. We have some ideas, but we are going to try out some different combinations."

The rest of the Havre roster features a combination of youth and experience. The Ponies will have three freshmen on the varsity team in Kylie Walker, Sydney Wilting and Mia Olsen. Rounding things out are Jera Verploegen, Kaitlin Anderson and Katelyn Maloughney.

After heading to Great Falls Friday, Havre will play road games against Glasgow and Lewistown, before playing the home opener against Lewistown April 20. The Ponies will also play home-and-away series with Belgrade and Livingston, in addition to Lewistown and Glasgow. The Havre Invitational will be May 5. Havre will also host the Central A Divisional at the Sixth Avenue Memorial Field. That will be May 19. The Class A state tournament will be May 25-26 in Frenchtown.


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