By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sports/ email@example.com
Saturday night at Legion Field in Havre the final sign that spring has arrived to the Hi-Line will be present in the form of the first American Legion baseball game of the season.
The 2003 Havre Northstars will make their season debut when they host the Class AA Kalispell Lakers in a double header beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday night.
The Lakers and Northstars will also square off on Sunday afternoon as well. That double header is set to begin at 11 a.m.
Beginning the season against a quality opponent like Kalispell will be very tough, according to veteran Northstar head coach Mickey Williams.
"It should be interesting playing a team like Kalispell," Williams said. "We have never had the opportunity to play them before, but we are really looking forward to the challenge this weekend."
The 2003 Northstar team will have a very similar look to the team that went 55-12 in 2002 and wrapped up its season by winning another district championship as well as a third place finish at last year's Class A state tournament in Bozeman.
"We should have a pretty solid team this season," Williams said. "We have a lot of kids coming back from last year's team and they have a lot of game experience. I think that will definitely be to our advantage as the season goes on."
Indeed, the 2003 version of the Northstars features 11 players from last season including a top collegiate baseball prospect in Havre High junior Daine Solomon. Joining Solomon will be veteran Northstars, Tyler Thompson, Adam Jensen, Tyson Roe, Steve Heberly, Cory Junck, Ian Spencer, Mark Benjamin, Levi Briese, Ben Mader and Bobby Bergren. Chazz Hurlburt and Brandon Morse will also move up from the Havre Comets this season to round out the regular season Northstar roster.
Williams plans to dress all of his 17-year-old's because some of the veteran kids will not play due to other sports obligations and injury. In fact, Briese, Mader and Bergren are all nursing injuries at present time and will not play.
This season the Northstars have 56 regular season games on the schedule and they will also participate in regular season tournaments in Havre, Bozeman, Hamilton and Missoula. The Northern District tournament is set for the week of July 24 in Medicine Hat and the State A tournament will begin on July 31 in Hamilton. The regional tournament will be held in Spokane, Wash. later in August.
With a grueling schedule and tough district opponents, just where does Williams think his Northstars fit in?
"I definitely feel like we are one of the top four teams in our district," Williams said. "Fort McLeod will be very good because they are a veteran team very similar to us and Lethbridge will also be tough as well. You also have to factor in Medicine Hat, because they are usually a very strong team as well."
Williams predicts pitching and defense will be his team's strengths in 2003.
"We definitely have a lot of depth in pitching," Williams said. "And I believe that we are also a very solid fielding team. The hitting will come later. But I definitely think we have a chance to be a very solid team this season."
Saturday night's double header with the Lakers will begin at 5 p.m. and the Sunday's games will begin at 11 a.m. All of the action will be at Havre's Legion Field.
Admission for the games will be $3 for adults, $1 for students. Season passes will also be on sale at the games.