By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
HAMILTON - It couldn't have come at a worse time for the Havre Northstars.
Havre left its best baseball at home as errors, mental mistakes and stranded baserunners culminated in a 10-9 loss to the Dillon Cubs in loser-out action Monday afternoon at the Class A State Tournament in Hamilton.
The loss not only ends the Northstars state tournament, but also their season. It certainly wasn't the outcome that head coach Mickey Williams had envisioned for his team heading into the tournament.
"I am really disappointed not in losing but with how we played," Williams said. "We played probably two of our worst games of the season."
After coming out flat in their first game against the Bitterroot Bucs, the Northstars set the tone early grabbing a 4-0 lead, highlighted by Tyson Roe's two-run single.
Dillon slowly chipped away and took a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the seventh and added an insurance run in the eighth to go up 7-5.
Down two runs, the Northstars fought back in their final at-bat. Roe led off with a single and Cory Junck also reached base with a single. Mark Benjamin dropped down a sacrifice bunt, but Dillon first basemen Bo Fogel threw wildly to third trying to get the lead runner and failed to get an out.
With bases loaded and no outs, Dillon pitcher Collin Hilton tightened up a little, walking Levi Briese on four straight pitches to cut the lead to 7-6. Steve Heberly picked up his third single of the game, lining a shot to center to score Junck and Benjamin and give the Northstars an 8-7 lead.
Adam Jensen drew a walk to load the bases again with no outs. Havre was poised to turn a big inning into a monster with their three-four-five hitters coming to the plate.
But Daine Solomon grounded into a force play and Dusty Heath hit into a double play to end the inning.
"We should have gotten more than three runs," Williams said. "To have bases loaded and nobody out with your best hitters up and not get any runs, that doesn't win you many games."
Still, Havre had a one-run lead and plenty of momentum going into the bottom of the ninth.
Dillon's Kyle Tash opened the inning by getting to first as Levi Briese bobbled a ball at third. Northstars reliever Ian Spencer got a tough strike out on Tiff Myers to give the Northstars their first out. A pair of short singles by Dusty Case and Jordan Nesbitt loaded the bases for the Cubs.
Spencer and the Northstars desperately needed an out and appeared to get two as he got Bo Fogel to hit a soft grounder to Briese at third. Briese scooped it up, stepped on third for an out and fired home to get Tash, who was trying to score. However, Jensen didn't see Briese touch third and believed the force out was still in affect. Jensen caught the ball, touched home and started walking toward the dugout thinking the game had been won.
Tash, who appeared to have also thought he was out, trotted home to the delight of the Dillon bench.
Kyle Burwell ended the game moments later as he laced a single down the third-base line to score Case and end Havre's season.
"The whole last inning was bizarre," Williams said. "Adam never saw Levi touch third and he didn't hear us screaming at him to tag the runner. But what hurt us even worse was only getting three runs in the top of the ninth. We should have gotten five or six."
Indeed, the Northstars had plenty of scoring opportunities throughout the game as they stranded 13 runners on base.
"You can't win a game stranding 13 runners and making some of the mistakes we made," Williams said.
The Northstars finished the season 43-21, but Williams can't help but feel a little cheated the way the season ended.
"We might not have played our best baseball, but our kids played hard right to the end," Williams said. "It's frustrating for all of us because we know we're a better team than we showed."
Heberly and Roe led the Havre offense combining for six hits and four RBI's for the Northstars.
While the Northstars season is over with, they still have one final game to play on Saturday as part of the annual Alumni weekend. Both the Comets and Northstars will be in action on Saturday starting at 7 p.m. at Legion Field. The Comets will take on the older alumni at 7 p.m. while the Northstars will face the younger alumni at 9 p.m. The two alumni teams will square off Sunday at 1 p.m. The weekend kicks on off on Friday at 5:30 p.m. with an alumni golf scramble open to the public at Beaver Creek Golf Course.
Bitterroot Bucs 200 106 300 - 12 12 4
Havre Northstars 000 010 700 - 8 10 4
Cody Person and Cody Becker. Brandon Morse, Chazz Hurlburt (7) and Adam Jensen. WP - Person. LP - Morse.
BUCS - Phil Perez 0-2, J.C. Shepherd 2-6, Chance Edman 3-5, Cody Person 2-5, Cody Becker 2-5, Evan Ringel 0-5, Todd Steuben 0-4, Clay Schroeder 3-5, Kailun Ostheimer 0-2.
NORTHSTARS - Steve Heberly 0-3, Adam Jensen 0-4, Daine Solomon 0-5, Dusty Heath 3-5, Ian Spencer 2-5, Tyson Roe 1-4, Tyler Thompson 0-4, Mark Benjamin 2-4, Cory Junck 2-4.
RBI - Jensen, Solomon, Junck, Shepherd, Edman 2, Person 3, Becker. 2B - Shepherd, Becker, Spencer, Roe, Junck. HR - Person.
Havre Northstars 400 100 003 - 9 12 2
Dillon Cubs 001 000 412 - 10 16 5
Tyler Thompson, Ian Spencer (7) and Adam Jensen. Dusty Case, Collin Hilton (7) and Kyle Burwell. WP - Hilton. LP - Spencer.
NORTHSTARS - Steve Heberly 3-6, Adam Jensen 2-5, Daine Solomon 1-5, Dusty Heath 2-6, Ian Spencer 0-4, Tyson Roe 3-5, Cory Junck 1-3, Mark Benjamin 0-5, Levi Briese 0-4.
CUBS - Weston Devers 2-5, Nick Valach 2-5, Hilton 1-5, Kyle Tash 2-4, Tiff Myers 1-5, Case 3-5, Chance Plutt 0-3, Jordan Nesbitt 1-1, Boe Fogel 2-5, Burwell 2-5.
Extra-base hits - HR - Burwell, Hilton. 2B - Solomon, Jensen. Devers. RBIs - Roe 2, Heath 2, Solomon, Briese, Heberly. Burwell 2, Fogel 2, Tash, Case, Hilton, Devers, Valach.