It's been an exciting summer for Havre sports and on the first weekend in August, the summer season will go out with a bang as Havre plays host to the 2014 Montana Men’s Fastpitch softball state tournament.
The two-day, six-team, double elimination tournament will be held at Sixth Avenue Memorial Field in Havre and it starts Saturday at 8 a.m. The championship game will be at noon Sunday pitting an undefeated team against a team with one-loss. If the undefeated team wins then they will be champions. If not, another game to determine the outcome of the tournament will be at 2 p.m.
In terms of amateur sports, few are more popular than Men’s Fastpitch softball. It’s a sport where Havre, which is hosting the tournament for the first time since 2009, has enjoyed tremendous success in the past. Tha is part of why the 2014 version is set up to be one of the more entertaining tournaments in recent memory.
Despite capturing the fastpitch state championship three straight seasons, the Gallery Lounge team in Havre that featured locals like Gary Evans, Danny Wirtzberger, Cal Wirtzberger, Patch Wirtzberger and others, will be divided up to create more competition and interest in the tournament. Essentially, a softball giant was dismantled, giving way to a very intriguing tournament.
“In the past, we almost treated it kind of like a family vacation,” Danny Wirtzberger said. “We wanted to try and create a little more interest and entice more people to come so we decided to break up the team and we will all be on separate teams this year. The Gallery lounge team had won it the past three years and three straight times once before that a few years back, so it was like a dynasty.”
Four of the six teams will be from Havre. Wirtzberger, who was formerly the head coach of the Havre High School Softball and the Havre Northstars, will be heading up the Master Sports team.
Other members of the Master Sports roster include Dick Fuzesy, Kyle Sheppard, Steve Steinmitz, Ryan Knudsen, Ryan Evans, Bob Evans, Frank Cornwell and Tony Vigliotti.
The Gallery team will be led by Evans, who will be the pitcher. He also owns the distinction of being part of a state championship team in each of the last four decades so, even though the roster has changed the Gallery is still considered the favorite. The other Havre teams will be in hot pursuit, as will other top teams from Missoula and Deer Lodge.
“The Gallery team with Gary Evans will be pretty tough to be beat,” Wirtzberger said. “Gary has won state championships in the ’80s, ’90s, 2000s and 2010s. I am pretty proud of him for that, and it will be hard to beat them with him pitching. But the Press Box team from Missoula is also really good and the team from Deer Lodge is pretty salty, too, so there will be some great competition.”
Rounding out the Gallery roster is Bucky Lindstrand, Rob Watson, Donny Meirhoff, Andy Anderson, Brad Schafer, Eric McLain, John Coleman, Michael Holden and Justin Jensen.
The team from Koefod Agency consists of Patch Wirtzberger, Cal Wirtzberger, Billy Wagner, Gary Wagner, Matt Schoonover, Scott Miller, Ryne Antley and John Shennum, who will pitch.
Finally, the Valley Furniture team will feature Billy Evans, Ed Boucher, Sean Mariani, Dan Danielson, Brandon Trottier, Pete Stiff Arm, Shane Kemmer, Brett Patrick, Ryan Calahan, Nick Heninger and Colby Fetters.
The tournament will get underway Saturday morning when Koefod Agency takes on the team from Deer Lodge at 8 a.m. Master Sports will take on Valley Furniture at 10 a.m.
At noon, the winner of game one will matchup against Gallery Lounge, while the winner of game two will face off against the team from Missoula at 2 p.m.