By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
This was supposed to be the easy Canadian road swing for the Havre Northstars. However, it was anything but. The Northstars had to fight their way to a split against a pair of scrappy conference foes in two Northern A conference doubleheaders.
The Northstars opened the road trip with a solid 9-1 win over the Medicine Hat Knights Tuesday afternoon in Medicine Hat. Tyler Thompson pitched seven strong innings, surrendering just one run and scattering six hits to pick up the win for the Northstars.
Thompson was aided by a six-run seventh inning to secure the win. Havre jumped out early scoring three runs in the first inning including an RBI single by Dusty Heath. The Northstars bats quieted a little until the seventh inning when they exploded for four hits and six runs. Ian Spencer scored two runs on a single while Heath and Adam Jensen each added RBI singles in the win.
"We started off really strong," said Northstars head coach Mickey Williams. "We quieted down a little after the first inning, but we kept hitting the ball hard and kind of got going in the seventh."
But the hard hits stopped in the nightcap of the doubleheader.
Medicine Hat capitalized on a flat pitching performance from Ian Spencer and some critical Northstars errors to steal a 6-3 win and salvage a split of the doubleheader.
Spencer pitched four innings, gave up four earned runs and allowed seven hits. His performance was respectable, but not quite up to his level of pitching.
"Ian was just a little flat," Williams said. "He didn't pitch badly and we made some errors that didn't help too much."
Indeed, errors didn't help, but the Knights' bats didn't help either. Medicine Hat scored four runs in the inning on three hits including a lead-off double.
While the Knights pounded out eight hits, the Northstars only picked up five hits with only one of those being an extra base hit.
"We didn't hit the ball hard at all," Williams said. "It's not that we're seeing tough pitchers either."
The Northstars hitting woes would carry over the following days as they were greeted by the Vauxhall Spurs with a 10-0 pasting in the first game of the doubleheader.
Havre scratched out one solitary hit - a single by Tyler Thompson - in the five inning affair.
While the Vauxhall pitching was stellar, Havre's pitching struggled. Northstar starter Chazz Hurlburt struggled with his control, allowing seven earned runs on just one hit, but he walked seven batters. Hurlburt, who usually has good accuracy, walked the bases loaded in the five-run third inning, walked in a run and then a pair of Northstar errors led to the four remaining runs.
"I normally don't leave a starter out there that long when they're struggling that bad," Williams said. "But we weren't hitting the ball and we tried to save some pitching."
Brandon Morse came in to slow the Spurs, but they banged out a pair of hits off him and scored three runs to give the Spurs a 10-0 lead.
Williams wasn't pleased with the pitching and defense, but he was very concerned with the hitting.
"Their pitcher was pretty solid, one of the better ones we've seen this season," Williams said. "But he wasn't overpowering. We're not patient enough and we're swinging at bad pitches."
But the Northstars rallied in the nightcap of the doubleheader behind the pitching of Steve Heberly to salvage a split. Heberly and the Northstars returned the favor blanking the Spurs 10-0 in five innings.
Heberly picked up the win pitching five innings, striking out six and allowing just three hits.
"Steve did a good job of keeping hitters off balance," Williams said. "His curveball was working great and he got ahead of hitters. He pitched really well."
The Northstars bats weren't explosive, but they did bang out nine hits in the win. Hurlburt had a solid game at the plate with a pair of RBI doubles to lead the Northstars. Cory Junck drove in a pair of runs while Mark Benjamin scored a pair of runs and stole three bases in the win.
To split the games is usually the ultimate goal of any road trip, but Williams said that this road trip should have yielded more success. The Northstars are staring down a very tough Canadian road swing that features Fort MacLeod and Lethbridge next week. With a week of practice, Havre will be working hard.
"This was supposed to be the easier of the two trips," Williams said. "Next week is going to be tough. We are going to have to back basics especially with hitting. We have to have a plan when we go up to the plate. We're going to have live hitting, and try to get back in the groove.
Havre Northstars 300 000 6 - 9 9 1
Medicine Hat Knights 001 000 0 - 1 6 4
Tyler Thompson (WP) and Adam Jensen; Lewis (LP) and Muryn.
NORTHSTARS - Steve Heberly 1-4, Cory Junck 0-1, Daine Solomon 0-3, Chazz Hurlburt 0-3, Ian Spencer 2-3 (2 RBI), Dusty Heath 3-3 (2 RBI), Adam Jensen 2-4 (1 RBI), Mark Benjamin 0-3, Tyson Roe 1-3 (2 RBI).
KNIGHTS - Coehorn 1-4, Muryn 1-3, Lewis 1-3, Smeby 0-3, Rittinger 0-3, Prosser 1-3, Patience 0-3, Hitchen 1-3, Reeder 0-1, Johnson 1-1.
2B - none
3B - none
HR - none
Havre Northstars 110 001 0 - 3 5 2
Medicine Hat Knights 002 400 X - 6 9 2
Ian Spencer (LP), Brandon Morse (5) and Daine Solomon; Camulon (WP) and Rintoul.
NORTHSTARS - Heberly 1-2, Junck 0-4, Solomon 2-4, Hurlburt 0-3, Thompson 0-3, Heath 0-3 (1 RBI), Jensen 1-3, Levi Briese 0-3, Bobby Bergren 1-2 (1 RBI).
KNIGHTS - Coehorn 1-4, Haberlock 0-3, Lewis 2-4, Muryn 2-3, Smeby 1-3, Prosser 0-2, Patience 1-3, Simons 1-3, Rintoul 1-3.
2B - Patience
3B - Heberly
HR - none
Havre Northstars 000 00 - 0 1 2
Vauxhall Spurs 015 4X- 10 5 2
Chazz Hurlburt (LP), Brandon Morse (4) and Levi Briese; Ellis (WP) and Forsythe.
NORTHSTARS - Heberly 0-3, Junck 0-2, Solomon 0-2, Heath 0-2, Thompson 1-2, Jensen 0-2, Benjamin 0-2, Briese 0-1, Roe 0-2.
SPURS - Monroe 0-0, Bowman 1-2, Ellis 1-3, Rhodes 1-2, Forsythe 1-1, Beckie 1-3, Odlund 0-2, Birch 0-3, Odlund 0-3.
2B - none
3B - none
HR - none
Havre Northstars 013 15 - 10 4 1
Vauxhall Spurs 000 00 - 0 3 4
Steve Heberly (WP) and Adam Jensen; Vilay (LP) and Cover.
NORTHSTARS - Benjamin 1-3 (3 SB), Junck 1-4, Solomon 0-4, Heath 0-3, Thompson 0-2 (1 RBI), Hurlburt 2-2 (2 RBI), Jensen 0-1, Spencer 0-2 (1 RBI), Bergren 1-2 (2 SB).
SPURS - Monroe 1-3, Bowman 0-2, Ellis 0-2, Rhodes 0-1, Forsythe 0-2, Odlund 1-2, Birch 1-2, Olson 0-2, Cover 0-2.
2B - Hurlburt 2
3B - none
HR - none