Havre Daily News
On Friday night, the Havre High softball team made school history by clinching its first ever appearance in the Class A state softball tournament with a 10-5 victory over the Browning Indians in Browning.
The Ponies entered their contest with Browning in control of their own postseason destiny. With a win the Ponies would lock up a berth in the state tournament. A loss, however, would mean they would have to sit back and wait for Whitefish to finish its season before they would know their fate.
But as they have all season long, the Ponies got the job done when they had to.
“All year long we have won the big games,” HHS head coach Bob Evans said. “We have lost some games that we probably should have won, but every time we needed a win against a conference opponent, the girls stepped up and took care of business. I give a lot of credit to them, and they have done a great job all season long.
“I mean for a team that has such little experience, only playing for two seasons, to go out there and make the state tournament is pretty amazing,” he added. “We had to compete against some teams that are a lot more experienced and have been playing for a lot longer than we have, but the girls were great, and in our second season we have gotten into that second tier of teams in our conference and in the state.”
The Ponies drubbed the Indians 15-1 earlier in the season. The importance of the game and the fact that the Ponies struggled last season when they made their appearance in Browning, however, prevented the game from feeling like a sure thing.
The Ponies quickly erased any doubts of a letdown. They jumped out to a 5-1 lead with one run in the first inning and two runs each in the second and third innings. Browning slowly climbed back into the game with two runs in the bottom of the third inning and cut the deficit to 5-3.
Then, in the top of the fifth inning, the Ponies put the game away for good with a three-run inning that launched them ahead 8-3, on their way to a 10-5 victory.
“The game was not really as close as the score made it seem,” Evans said. “We controlled the game really throughout the whole contest. The weather was really nasty, so it was kind of hard to hit the ball, and we only got about three or four hits. But they made some mistakes, and we were able to capitalize on them.”
Kelsey Evans won her fifth straight start in conference play and improved her record in conference to 6-3.
“Kelsey pitched a good game for us,” Evans said. “It was difficult because of the weather, but she pitched well for us when we needed her to. But she has done that all season.”
After locking up a berth in the state tournament, the Ponies returned home Saturday for the Havre Invitational. Unfortunately, the Ponies were not able to find the success that they were looking for. They lost both of the games they played, falling 9-2 to Conrad and 8-4 to Cut Bank on Saturday afternoon at Sixth Avenue Memorial Softball Field.
In their game against Conrad, the Ponies were cruising along just fine until everything fell apart in the top of the third inning.
Conrad scored seven runs on four hits, giving them a 7-0 lead. The key play in the inning came when the bases were loaded with the score already 2-0 in Conrad's favor. Pitcher Kelsey Evans had a chance to make a double play. Instead, she made an errant throw that allowed two runs to score and sucked the life out of the Ponies. They never recovered and lost 9-2 without ever seriously making a run at victory.
“Kelsey actually pitched fairly well except for that one bad inning,” Evans said. “She walked a couple batters and gave up a few hits, but what hurt us was the errors that we had. We just didn't make the plays that we had to make and Conrad did. That was the difference in the ball game.”
In the second game, the Ponies looked to recover from the tough loss suffered at the hands of Conrad. But their ball game against Cut Bank was eerily similar to the game they had played just hours before.
The game was tied at 1-1 entering the top of the second inning when once again the wheels fell off for the Ponies. Pitcher Steph Stremcha allowed three runs on two hits, and suddenly the Ponies once again faced an imposing deficit.
Things went from bad to worse for Havre, as the Ponies fell behind 8-2 after a two-run double in the top of the seventh inning.
The Ponies tried desperately to rally late in the game, scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. With the bases loaded and no outs, Evans came to the plate and smacked a single that scored Erika Briese. Two batters later, Stacey Sheppard grounded into a fielder's choice that allowed Katie McLeod to score, making it 8-4. But the Ponies' run came up agonizingly short and they fell 8-4.
“I don't really know what happened to us. We really didn't play that bad except for a few bad innings,” Bob Evans said. “Maybe we had a bit of a let down because of how big the Browning game was, but in reality, we just didn't make the plays that we needed to make to win, that's all.”
The Ponies will be in action again next weekend in the final tune-up for the state tournament when they head to Laurel for a two-day tournament on Friday and Saturday.
Havre 10, Browning 5
Havre - 122 031 1 - 10 3 3
Browning - 012 001 1 - 5 4 11
WP - Kelsey Evans
LP - Sarah Wolftail
Havre leading batters - Sam Mack 1-3, Kelsey Evans 1-4, Jessica Obrecht 1-3.
Conrad 9, Havre 2
Conrad - 007 101 0 - 9 8 3
Havre - 000 011 0 - 4 8 1
Cut Bank 8, Havre 4
Cut Bank - 130 020 2 - 8 8 2
Havre - 100 010 2 - 4 8 3