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Pony softball finishes the regular season in Butte

 

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre High's Katelyn Maloughney throws a ball in from the outfield during a recent Central A softball game in Havre. The Blue Ponies have reached the end of the regular season, as they finish at this weekend's Laverne Combo Invitational in Butte.

Fresh off some of the best softball they have played all season, the Havre Blue Ponies will head to Butte this weekend for the Laverne Combo Invitational in a final tune-up for the Central A Divisional tournament.

Havre, which has made the tournament hosted by Butte Central an annual stop, will play four games over the course of Friday and Saturday, starting with Hamilton. First pitch in that game is set for 11:45 a.m. HHS will also play Polson Friday (3:15 p.m.), as well as Ronan (9:00 a.m.) and Butte Central on Saturday (12:30 p.m.).

"We want to go down and play well," HHS head coach Tony Vigliotti said. "We want to play well down there in Butte and go into that divisional tournament with some wins."

One recent change for Havre has come with the pitching staff. While Vigliotti feels good about both of his starting pitchers, Lauren Kato and Sam Oliver, he used Kato in both games last weekend and said that was the plan going forward.

"We are lucky to have two pitchers that we feel good about," Vigliotti said. "But I think we are a better team defensively when we have Sam at short, so I think that is going to be our plan. Lauren feels comfortable doing it and this will give her a chance to get used to that before divisionals."

Last Saturday was the first time that Kato made consecutive starts and the senior was stellar in two wins over Cut Bank and Conrad. She allowed just one run in eight innings of work against the two teams, which was enough to earn Kato her fourth and fifth wins of the season. She also held her opponents scoreless over her final seven innings, a streak she will carry into her first start Friday.

"The thing with Lauren is she had good control and is great at hitting her spots," Vigliotti said. "We just need her out there throwing strikes and, behind her, our defense needs to make plays."

The fact that the Ponies made it through both wins over Conrad and Cut Bank without an error demonstrates how important defense is for HHS, which also earned a 3-0 shutout in a win over Lewistown earlier this season. While the defense is going to be a huge key going forward, producing at the plate is also vital and after scoring 29 runs in two games at the Havre Invitational, Havre is hoping to keep the positive vibes going.

"Hopefully, they (players) will go to the plate with some confidence," Vigliotti said. "They know they can do it, and we just have to keep that confidence. The big thing is trying to put it together consistently here for the next two or three weeks."

The Havre offense is built around Kinzee Peterson, who bats cleanup and leads the team in batting average (.500) home runs (8) and RBI (26). Setting the table for her consistently has been the top of the order, which features lead-off hitter Janae Boles and Sydney Wilting, who broke out against Cut Bank with two home runs, nine RBIs and a grand slam. Oliver (.370) and Kato (.327) have also come through with plenty of timely hits this season and Oliver in particular, joins Wilting and Peterson as the only players to reach double figures in both runs scored and RBIs.

Havre will start the weekend with a 6-9 record and no matter what happens, the Ponies will head to the Central A Divisional as the fourth-seed. Havre will take on Belgrade to open the postseason, but HHS will open the Laverne Combo Invitational first, and that starts Friday with Hamilton at 11:45 a.m.

 

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