Havre softball swings for state


Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre High senior Kinzee Peterson gets ready to swing the bat in a home game against Conrad earlier this month. She and the Ponies will travel to Lewistown Thursday to take on Belgrade and attempt to reach the Class A state tournament with at least one win.

When it comes to the Central A Divisional softball tournament, the Havre Blue Ponies have one simple objective: Win one game.

By winning that one game, the Blue Ponies would head back to the Class A state tournament, a trip that has become routine for HHS. Yet, after finishing fourth in the Central A standings, getting that win won't be easy. Havre will open the tournament in Lewistown against Belgrade. The Panthers are the No. 1 seed and the defending state champs. The first pitch is set for 12:30 p.m.

"If we do the things that we are supposed to do and we get some good pitching, I think we will have a chance," HHS head coach Tony Vigliotti said. "I really believe that we can play with anybody. We just have to do the things that we are capable of doing. We have to put the ball in play and make them do the same."

Pitching is always the key to winning softball and for Havre that responsibility will go to Lauren Kato. The senior has taken over as the top pitcher for the Ponies and, after four wins in the regular season, she will do the majority of the pitching at divisionals.

"I have a lot of confidence in Lauren," Vigliotti said. "She does a great job of throwing strikes and we are going to go as she goes."

In the opening game of the tournament for the Ponies, Kato will need to be at her best as she will likely square off against Erin Elgas of Belgrade, a pitcher who has a Division I scholarship. The Panthers swept the Ponies earlier in the season, winning 11-6 with Kaleigh Baurele, another Division I commit, on the mound.

Elgas notched a shutout in the win over the Ponies and Belgrade also belted three home runs in the two games. Two of those came from Lanie Morgan, while the other was hit by Olivia Cook.

The other side of the bracket will feature Lewistown and Livingston facing off, with the winner playing Belgrade or Havre in the championship game. Not only does a win in the first game clinch a spot in the title game, but it also guarantees those teams a berth at the state tournament.

The Central A sends three teams to state, though, so the losers of the first-round games will meet around 2 p.m. for third place and a berth at the state tournament. Last season, as the host, Havre didn't need to worry about playing in that game, defeating Lewistown to reach the championship game before getting defeated by Belgrade.

While Havre was 1-5 in conference play, the Ponies one win came over Lewistown via a 3-0 shutout. The Eagles also defeated Havre when the two teams met in Lewistown. Livingston, which hosted both games against Havre at home, swept the Ponies 10-5 and 13-11. The second contest between the two teams went to extra innings, showing how competitive things were between the second- third- and fourth-place teams in the Central A.

Of course, Kato will play a huge role on the mound, but the offense will need to carry its weight and that starts with Kinzee Peterson, an All-State selection who has eight home runs this season. She leads Havre in RBIs, batting average and on-base percentage and with Janae Boles, Sydney Wilting and Sam Oliver in front of her in the lineup, she gets plenty of chances to drive in runs.

Kato has helped herself out a lot at the plate recently, getting a hit in each of the Ponies four games in Butte last weekend. Peyton Brown, who plays at second base, had a pair of two-hit games last weekend and also hit a home run recently against Conrad.

"We just need to do all the things we have talked about for the past two years," Vigliotti said. "If we do what we are supposed to do, we are going to get the win that we need. We are going to make the state tournament. We just have to go down there and take care of our business."

The Ponies will open the divisional tournament against Belgrade at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in Lewistown. The tournament was originally scheduled for Saturday but was moved up due to the anticipation of bad weather this weekend. There will still be four games played Thursday, with three teams advancing to state.

The state tournament will be held in Polson May 23-25.


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