Havre Daily News
Facing a must-win situation, the Havre High softball team turned to pitcher Kelsey Evans this weekend, and like she has all year for the Ponies, Evans came through in the clutch.
Needing a win to keep their hopes for a state tournament berth alive, the Ponies needed to sweep their doubleheader in Ronan on Friday night, and that is exactly what they did, winning 8-3 and 5-1.
“We got a couple of really big wins,” HHS head coach Bob Evans said. “The girls really played well. We were missing some of our regular players, so we had some younger kids that had to step up for us and they did.
“Every single girl that we put out on the field contributed. It was a total team effort,” Evans added.
For the first time all season, Evans was forced to start both games of a doubleheader, but she was definitely up to the challenge. Evans picked up a pair of wins, giving her four straight victories. She held Ronan to three runs on nine hits in game one of the doubleheader. In game two, Evans was nearly unhittable, as she surrendered just one run on three hits while striking out 11 batters.
“She (Evans) just pitched outstanding,” Evans said. “She knew that those were two of the biggest games of the season and if we were going to win, we were going to need her on the mound. “She is just such a competitor, she wanted the ball in her hands,” he added. “I asked her after the first game if she was tired and if she thought she could go in the second game, and she had no doubt. She wanted the game to be on her shoulders, and she is our ace and you were not going to get the ball out of her hands.”
Evans got off to a bit of a shaky start in game one, giving up two runs in the first two innings and giving Ronan a 2-1 lead. But she was able to calm down and get things under control. She held the Maidens scoreless over the next two innings and kept her team within striking distance.
Trailing by a run entering the fifth inning, the Ponies finally got their bats going when Karly Evans connected on a clutch two-run single, giving Havre a 3-2 lead heading into bottom of the fifth. Ronan tied the game in the bottom of the fifth and set the stage for a dramatic finish.
Havre quickly took control of the situation by taking advantage of several Ronan mistakes. Havre got runners on second and third after a walk, a hit batter and a passed ball. Then McKayla Patterson cashed in with a two-run single that put Havre ahead 5-3. A few batters later, Stacey Sheppard gave the Ponies a big cushion going into the final inning with another two-run single, giving Havre an 8-3 lead.
With a five-run lead, Havre turned to Kelsey Evans, its ace, to close out the game. And she did just that, allowing no runs in the bottom of the sixth to give Havre a critical 8-3 win.
“Karly Evans and Stacey Sheppard really stepped up and played very well for us in a big situation,” Evans said. “They each had to fill in for a player that is normally in our lineup and they did a great job. They each had big plays on both offense and defense.”
After rallying for a come-from-behind victory in the first game, Havre was determined to get the sweep it so desperately needed. Because of the absence of starting pitcher Steph Stremcha, Kelsey Evans had to pitch again in game two.
Evans had never before started back-to-back games in her career, but the extra work did little to slow her down. Evans never showed any signs of fatigue throughout the second game, as she tossed a brilliant game. She allowed just one run on three hits in six innings of work.
Patterson put the Ponies up for good with a two run single in the third that gave them a 2-0 lead they never relinquished. Evans knocked in a pair of runs later in the game to extend the lead. Sam Mack added an RBI to give the Ponies a 5-1 victory.
“I am just really proud of how our girls played,” Evans said. “They were pumped up heading into the game and they came out with a purpose. They knew how important this game was, and they were able to come through with the big plays we needed to win.”
The win improved the Ponies' record to 5-6 in conference and also moved them a step closer to the state tourney berth they desire so much.
“I don't really know what the standings look like for sure, so we just need to stay focused and worry about taking care of our own business,” Evans explained. “We are in a good position, but we need to win our last game, and then we will have to wait and see how things play out. We don't want to look ahead or underestimate anyone. The only thing we are worried about is winning, and if we do that, everything else with take care of itself.”
The Ponies will be in action next Friday and Saturday in Butte for the Butte Central Invitational.
Ponies 8, Maidens 5
Havre 100 025 - 8 5 2
Ronan 110 010 - 3 9 4
Havre leading batters - Sam Mack 1, McKayla Patterson 1, Katie McLeod 1, Stacey Sheppard 1, Karly Evans 1.
Ponies 5, Maidens 1
Havre 002 030 - 5 11 2
Ronan 000 010 - 1 3 0
Havre lLeading batters - Sam Mack 3, Katie McLeod 2, Kelsey Evans 2, McKayla Patterson 1.