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Area spring sports teams off to the same the start as 2018


March 20, 2019

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre High's Peyton Brown throws during a Blue Pony softball practice inside the HHS gymnasium last week. All three Pony spring sports have once again been impacted by a rough winter and a rough start to spring.

While it is starting to feel a little more like spring here in Havre, and today is the first official day of spring, the snow and the cold that came in the previous weeks and months are still impacting all of the local sports, which have begun preparing for the start of the spring season.

When it comes to Havre High, tennis, track and softball are the spring and the weather has impacted each sport just as it did last season, when snow and cold caused cancellations and delays.

For the Havre High softball team, if it wasn't for an indoor batting cage and the ability to practice indoors inside the HHS gymnasium, there would be little if anything they could do, simply because Sixth Avenue Memorial Field, where the Blue Ponies practice and play their home games, is still too wet and in some spots still snow covered.

"We checked it and it's still pretty wet," Havre High head softball coach Tony Vigliotti said. "We got a lot of snow still moving around so we are probably looking at next week or so. It has been really nice out so that will help but we are hoping maybe Saturday or Monday."

In the meantime, the Ponies have been using batting cages to work on both hitting and pitching, while also utilizing the gym to try and practice fielding. Havre is supposed to open its season March 30 in Great Falls, but Vigliotti said right now, nothing is guaranteed.

"They aren't really sure," Vigliotti said about the Great Falls jamboree. "They are going to wait until the end of the week and see where things are at. It is supposed to be even warmer down there, so we will see. It would be nice to get that opening weekend and get that time in."

Last season, the Ponies went to Great Falls without having a chance to practice on an actual softball field and, depending how things go this next week, the situation could be the same.

"I hope not," Vigliotti said. "I hope that the weather cooperates and we can get outside a little bit next week."

Even though everyone wants to get outside, Vigliotti said the Ponies were fortunate to be able to do a lot of work inside.

"I tell you what, we can do a lot of fundamental stuff," Vigliotti said. "We can simulate some batting and pitching in the cage, so we can get a lot of things done, and looking at our team, I am not really worried about game situations right now. It will be nice to get outside and go over some of those, but we are pretty experienced, so I think we will be fine. The girls have handled it all really well."

When it comes to track, the weather has also impacted practice and the Ponies have been forced to make other adjustments such as practicing in the gym, even though they have been able to focus on form work and get some of their distance runners outside with improved temperatures.

Havre was also able to get the actual track surface mostly cleared off during the first week of the season, which, has actually put the Ponies a little further ahead than they were at this point a year when record-setting snow refused to melt from the Havre Middle School track until the middle of April.

Meanwhile, HHS head tennis coach George Ferguson said he felt like he was right back in 2018 when tennis season started to approach at the end of February. A year ago, Ferguson, with the help of volunteers and the Pony tennis players, literally removed more than three feet of snow from the tennis courts with snow blowers, shovels and wheel barrows and while he noted that, there wasn't as much snow on the courts this spring, it still put the Ponies in pretty much the same predicament.

"It's funny, we finished the courts on March 23 last year, and that was after starting the process on Feb. 24, and on that day, I swore I would never go through that again," Ferguson laughed. "I spent all summer telling people that was not going to be the case this year, and even back on Feb. 1, I was pretty hopeful. Of course, we all know what happened after that.

"So, while there wasn't nearly as much snow on the courts, I did get a much later start to snow blowing and shoveling them this year because of all those days where it was 10 or 12 below out in the middle of the day. I guess I just wasn't tough enough to go out and snow blow in those temperatures," he said, laughing, "so this year, we didn't really even start removing the snow until the first week of March."

Ferguson said that he got two of the four courts at the high school cleared before he left Havre to attend state basketball tournaments, but after that, he ran into a new problem.

"It sounds stupid to say, but after I blew off the first two, it got too warm during the day from there on out, and the snowblower wouldn't work on that wet snow, and then each night since, it gets cold again, and those other two courts have been a huge block of ice every day, and it is taking forever to melt. We have shoveled some, and I'm hoping we're about done, but the whole thing has definitely felt like deja vu."

In the meantime, the Pony tennis teams spent the first four days in the Sunnyside gym, but have since moved to the tennis courts, where they've been practicing on the two courts that are free of snow. And while the temperatures have started to improve, and the Ponies are on the tennis courts now, Ferguson admits, another rough February was more than frustrating.

"I was pretty upset with how bad February was," Ferguson admitted. "My first 15 years of coaching, I never had to use a snowblower on the courts, and now, two years in a row. It's tough. We did what we could in the gym, but our sport is really only meant to be played on real tennis courts, so it's tough.

"I will say, though, our kids the last two years, they've been awesome," he continued. "They've stayed really positive, they've made the best out of it, and most of all, they've worked super-hard to help get the courts ready. When I look back on these last two years of my coaching career, that's what I'm always going to remember, I'm always going to remember how amazing our kids have been through all of this."


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