By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
The only thing more dangerous than the Havre Northstars bats on Tuesday was the field they were playing on. The Northstars survived the winds off the Rocky Mountain Front and rough playing conditions to sweep the Tri-County Cardinals in a Northern District doubleheader in Cut Bank.
The playing surface, which was littered with gopher holes and other hazards, took its toll on the Northstars early, as centerfielder Mark Benjamin sprained his ankle while running to first on an elevated lip. Benjamin gutted through the first game playing on it, but the swelling and pain became too much in the second game as head coach Mickey Williams pulled him after two innings.
"He was starting to limp pretty bad," Williams said. "Mark is the type of player who wants to keep playing, but why injure it worse?"
The playing surface in Cut Bank has never been known to be anything but average at best, but Williams doesn't recall it ever being this bad.
"The field was pretty bad," Williams said. "I'm not saying it has to be perfect, but it's dangerous to play on a field like that with older kids because they play so hard. I was pretty close to pulling our team off the field after Mark got hurt."
But the field wasn't the only thing beat up during the game - so was the Cardinals pitching. Havre pounded out 30 runs and 41 hits in two games to pick up a pair of decisive wins.
In game one, Havre took control in the third inning as Tyson Roe blasted a three-run home run to give the Northstars a 3-0 lead. Chazz Hurlburt tacked on another run in the inning with an RBI single. Havre added two more runs in the fourth with a RBI double from Daine Solomon and an RBI single from Tyler Thompson. The Northstars pulled away in the the sixth highlighted by Roe and Dusty Heath's RBI doubles.
After starting slowly in the beginning of the season, Roe's bat has been scorching as of late.
"Tyson has been playing really well lately," Williams said. "He's been one of our most consistent hitters."
Another good sign for the Northstars was the performance of starting pitcher Cory Junck, who picked up the win. Junck went all seven innings, allowing six hits and walking four batters while striking out eight.
Junck, who hasn't pitched much in the last two weeks after injuring his shoulder in a collision, appeared to be returning to his pre-injury form.
In the second game, Havre exploded for eight runs in the first inning, ending the game as quickly as it started. Solomon's three-run home run and RBI singles from Benjamin, Adam Jensen and Brandon Morse keyed the big inning. Tri-County answered with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning. Not to be outdone, Havre tacked on three more runs in the second inning on the strength of a two-run home run from Tyler Thompson.
Tri-County narrowed the lead by scoring four runs in the bottom half of the inning as Luke Alford slugged a grand slam.
But that was as close to Tri-County would get. Havre outscored Tri-County 10-1 in the final four innings to pick up a 21-7 win.
"We're finally hitting the ball the way we should," Williams said. "But they are a better team than the second game indicated."
Solomon, Heath and Jensen all collected four hits in the game while Chazz Hurlburt picked up the win on the mound, pitching all seven innings and striking out eight batters.
The Northstars will face Tri-County again on Friday at Legion Field and host Vauxhall on Sunday. While Williams is definitely concerned about the upcoming games, he is more concerned with his team's health.
Benjamin's status is unknown for this weekend, Jensen sprained his knee last weekend and is nowhere near 100 percent and Junck's sore shoulder still isn't near full strength. It also appears that Bobby Bergren is lost for the season with a knee injury and Levi Briese, who is playing football in Australia, is gone for another week.
"We only have eight completely healthy players right now," Williams said. "I am sure the kids will play even if they are hurting, but you don't want them to make things worse this early in the season.
Havre Northstars 004 203 0 - 9 14 0
Tri-County Cardinals 000 001 0 - 1 6 0
Cory Junck and Adam Jensen; Alford and Pyette. WP - Junck, LP - Alford.
NORTHSTARS - Steve Heberly 0-5, Mark Benjamin 3-3, Daine Solomon 3-5 (2 RBI), Dusty Heath 2-3 (RBI), Tyson Roe 2-2 (4 RBI), Tyler Thompson1-4 (RBI), Ian Spencer 1-4, Chazz Hurlburt 1-4, Adam Jensen 1-4.
CARDINALS - Pyette 0-4, Zell 1-4, Alford 1-3, Smith 0-2, Gordon 1-2, Tokerud 0-2, Snyder 1-3, Rosenberger 1-3, Christians 1-2.
2B - Solomon 2, Heath, Roe, Spencer
3B - none
HR - Roe, Alford
Havre Northstars 830 202 6 - 21 27 2
Tri-County Cardinals 240 010 0 - 7 7 4
Chazz Hurlburt and Daine Solomon, Adam Jensen; Gordon, Christians and Pyette. WP - Hurlburt, LP - Gordon
NORTHSTARS - Steve Heberly 3-6 (3 RBI), Mark Benjamin 2-3 (2 RBI), Chazz Hurlburt 2-3 (RBI), Daine Solomon 4-6 (4 RBI), Dusty Heath 4-6 (RBI), Tyson Roe 0-4, Tyler Thompson 3-6 (2 RBI), Ian Spencer 3-6, Adam Jensen 4-5 (RBI), Brandon Morse 2-4.
CARDINALS - Pyette 1-4, Zell 0-1, Alford 1-3 (4 RBI), Smith 1-4 (RBI), Gordon 1-4 (RBI), Pinckerd 1-4, Snyder 0-1, Stearns 0-2, Rosenberger 0-3, Christians 1-3.
2B - Spencer, Jensen
HR - Solomon