Havre softball players gather around their coaches at Saturday's jamboree at Multi-Sports Complex. / Tribune photo/Jesse Geleynse
The Havre softball team enjoys challenges.
Second-year head coach Dan Wirtzberger enjoys taking his squad to the annual Electric City softball jamboree. This year the Class A Blue Ponies finished 1-3 with a win over Class A Laurel and losses to Class AA Billings West, Billings Senior and Butte.
But Wirtzberger was pleased with his team’s offensive production as the youthful Blue Ponies get set for another season in the Central A division.
“We have a young team and we produced a lot more runs than we did last year,” Wirtzberger said. “Defensively we have a lot of work to do. We’re going to keep working on our pitching. Overall I was very happy with the successes we did have (Saturday).”
The Blue Ponies have been on the cusp of qualifying for the state tournament each of the past two seasons, but haven’t quite gotten there. Back-to-back 3-5 records resulted in missing the tournament via a coin flip in 2012, and the team finished fourth at the first annual Central A Divisional tournament last season. Belgrade, Livingston and Lewistown represented the division at state last season.
“We’re hoping to get over the hump this year,” Wirtzberger said. “We lost two seniors last year, important seniors – a pitcher and a shortstop – but we have some players who can fill those roles very nicely. Our goal is to make it over that hump and make it to the state tournament this year.”
Those seniors were pitcher Davee Macleod and shortstop Roxanna Jensen. This year junior Rachel Majeres will get most of the turns in the circle and will be counted on to lead a Havre team that has just three seniors this season.
“I’m definitely throwing a little harder and I can actually pick up targets and I don’t walk so many kids,” Majeres said after the jamboree. “It’s good for our first weekend to get out the jitters and play against some really good teams, but it doesn’t really matter.”
Wirtzberger raved about the changes Majeres has made in the offseason.
“She’s doing a fantastic job mixing up her pitches and she’s gotten so much stronger in the last year,” Wirtzberger said. “She’s been lifting almost every day and she’s thrown every day for the last year. This is her thing. She loves it and you can tell when she’s on the field.”
The Blue Ponies are also hoping the success several of the players experienced while winning the Class A state basketball title will inspire them this spring. Four players from that hoops team are on the softball roster, including Tori and Morgan Mazurkiewicz, Dani Wagner and Majeres.
“The basketball players that were on that state championship team really kind of split up in the spring,” Wirtzberger said. “That’s a good thing because I think all of our spring sports are going to see that success hopefully carry over from the winter sport.”
Seniors Sydne Huston, China Bohn and Natalie Hill will also play key roles for Havre. The five-player junior class is loaded with Majeres, the Mazurkiewicz twins, Paige Henderson and Harlee Boucher. All started last season.
Wagner is also a returning starter as a sophomore.
Wirtzberger inherited the program after the 2012 season from Otto Thill, who coached Havre for two season after a successful run at Florence-Carlton that included five Class B-C state titles since 2000 and a three-peat from 2004-06.
“Otto did a great job of teaching fundamentals, so I inherited a really good team,” Wirtzberger said. “Buy-in, by the end of the year last year they were there and that was an easier transition for them this year now.”
The Blue Ponies continue play this Friday and Saturday at the Belgrade Invite. The schedule includes the Conrad Invite at the end of April, the Havre Invite at the beginning of May and the Butte Central Invite to wrap up the regular season in mid-May.