By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
It wasn't pretty at times, but it was a championship. The Havre Northstars overcame some sluggish at-bats and some scary moments to capture their third straight Northern District tournament championship in Lethbridge this past weekend.
Havre knocked off the Lethbridge Miners 4-2 for the second time in as many days in the title game, thanks to solid pitching from Brandon Morse and Ian Spencer. The duo combined to hold the Miners to just two runs despite surrendering nine hits in the game.
"We found a way to win," said Northstars manager Mickey Williams. "That was pretty much the case for the whole weekend. We didn't play particularly well in any of our games, but we found ways to get wins."
Morse, who was only allowed to pitch seven innings in the title game because of a restriction on tournament innings, allowed just two runs while striking out eight batters.
Lethbridge grabbed an early run in the first inning on an RBI single from Matt Smith. Havre answered with three runs in the third inning. Jordon Patterson ripped an RBI single to center and Tony Christian laced a two-run double the right-center gap. The Northstars added an insurance run in the fourth, as Jeff Tibbals reached on an error and later scored on a throwing error. But the initial three runs were all Morse and Spencer would need.
Lethbridge managed just one more run in the fifth inning when Smith picked up his second RBI single of the game. Morse allowed just one more hit in the next two innings to secure his 10th win of the season. Spencer took over in the eighth and held the Miners scoreless to get the save.
"Brandon did a nice job for us all weekend," Williams said. "He pitched a lot of innings and really stepped up in some tight situations."
Patterson led the Havre offense with two of Havre's six hits.
"We didn't hit the ball very well in that game, especially with runners in scoring position," Williams said. "But our defense and pitching kept us in the game."
Havre advanced to the title game with a 4-1 win over Lethbridge in Saturday's semifinal. Cory Junck put on a sparkling pitching performance for the Northstars, limiting the Miners to just four hits in the game. Junck pitched all nine innings, allowing just one earned run while striking out 10 batters and overcoming six walks.
"That was one of the better games that Cory has pitched all year," Williams said. "He didn't have his best control, but he really battled after walking a few batters."
Lethbridge's only run came in the second inning. Jared Hirsche scored on a double to left from Mike Trautman to take a 1-0 lead.
The Northstars answered immediately with three runs of their own in the second. Tony Christian led off the inning with a double and later scored on a sacrifice fly from Eric Fanning. Solomon drove in a pair of runs with a double to right to put Havre up 3-1.
Havre tacked on another run in the fifth. Solomon led off with a single and later scored on a Trent Normandy single to right.
Solomon led the Havre offense with three hits and a pair of runs driven in. Jordon Patterson added a pair of hits.
In the quarterfinals, Havre received a huge scare from the Fort MacLeod Royals, holding off the pesky Royals with a 10-9 win.
The Northstars grabbed a 2-1 lead. Spencer ripped an RBI double and later scored on an error.
Fort MacLeod got to Northstar starter Chase Castloo in the fourth inning, scoring four runs in the inning on three hits and taking advantage of three Castloo walks to go up 5-2.
"Chase looked a little nervous," Williams said. "He just wasn't quite as sharp as he has been all season. The pitches that were usually on the corners were balls and the walks really came back to hurt him."
Havre took advantage of a few Fort MacLeod walks to score three runs in the bottom of the fourth. Cory Junck delivered a two-run single and Patterson had an RBI single.
Castloo started the fifth inning, but failed to get an out before Williams went to Morse in relief. Morse worked his way out of the inning, but Fort MacLeod still scored three runs to go up 8-6. But Havre rallied behind Spencer, who came up with possibly the biggest hit of the tournament, launching a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth. Spencer's 11th home run of the season provided a much needed spark and led to four runs in the inning.
With a 10-8 lead, Morse allowed just one run in the next four innings to secure the win for the Northstars.
"Ian's home run really got us going," Williams said. "It was a big hit in a crucial moment. Brandon did a nice job in relief. He came in and threw strikes to shut them down."
If Fort MacLeod scared Havre in the quarterfinals, the Tri-County Cardinals put a terrorizing fright into the Northstars in the opening round.
Havre held off the Cardinals with a 4-3 win in its first game of the tournament.
Tri-County had upset on its mind, taking a 3-0 lead in top of the fifth off Northstar starter Bret Magelssen. Havre rallied with a run in the bottom of the fifth. Patch Wirtzberger notched a run-scoring double.
Havre finally took the lead for good in the bottom of the eighth. Spencer got things going with a double and later scored on Normandy's triple to right. Normandy scored on a wild pitch to tie the game at three. Ben Erickson put the Northstars ahead with an RBI single.
Morse worked the ninth inning to pick up the save.
"We didn't have one easy game in this tournament," Williams said. "Everybody came after us and played us tough. Obviously, I would have liked for us to hit better, but we did what we had to do to win. It always feels good to win the tournament. I think these close games will only help us this weekend."
Havre will host the Class A State Legion Tournament starting on Friday. The Northstars open against the Gallatin Valley All-Stars at 8 p.m.
NORTHERN DISTRICT TOURNAMENT
Havre 4, Cut Bank 3
Tri-County Cardinals 000 120 000 - 3 7 1
Havre Northstars 000 010 03X - 4 8 3
R. Christians (7), D. Gordon and J. Pyette; Bret Magelssen (8), Brandon Morse and Ricky Houim.
WP - Magelssen; LP - Gordon; (S) - Morse
CARDINALS HITTING - J. Pyette 1-4, Z. Styren 0-5, C. Smith 1-4, D. Gordon 1-4, J. Rosenberger 2-3, R. Christians 2-4, B. Brown 0-4, D. Ahrens 0-3, A. Oien 0-1, J. Englehardt 0-4.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Daine Solomon 1-4, Patch Wirtzberger 1-4 (RBI), Ian Spencer 1-4, Trent Normandy 2-4 (RBI), Jordon Patterson 0-4, Cory Junck 1-3, Tony Christian 1-2, Ben Erickson 1-3 (RBI), Ricky Houim 0-4.
2B - Wirtzberger, Spencer
3B - Normandy
HR - none
Havre 10, Fort MacLeod 9
Fort MacLeod Royals 100 430 010 - 9 11 6
Havre Northstars 201 340 00X - 10 13 1
S. Wilson (4), T. Gibboney (5), J. Kutcher (8), D. Scobie (9) and C. Schultz; Chase Castloo (4), Brandon Morse (5) and Patch Wirtzberger.
WP - Morse; LP - Scobie.
ROYALS HITTING - J. Kutcher 1-3, S. Wilson 2-5, D. Scobie 2-3, C. Schultz 2-5, T. Margetak 0-3, T. Gibboney 3-5, M. Amatto 0-4, G. Gibos 1-4, L. Chester 0-4.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Daine Solomon 1-4, Patch Wirtzberger 2-4 (RBI), Ian Spencer 2-5 (4 RBI), Trent Normandy 1-4, Jordon Patterson 1-4, Cory Junck 2-4 (2 RBI), Tony Christian 1-5 (RBI), Ben Erickson 2-3, Jeff Tibbals 1-4.
2B - Spencer, Christian
3B - none
HR - Spencer
Havre 4, Lethbridge 1
Lethbridge Miners 010 000 000 - 1 4 1
Havre Northstars 030 010 00X - 4 10 1
Tyler Tamayose and Matt Smith; Cory Junck and Patch Wirtzberger.
WP - Junck; LP - Tamayose.
MINERS HITTING - Tyler Aiken 1-4, Kellon Kristjanson 2-4, Brent Wirzba 0-4, Matt Smith 0-3 Jared Hirsche0-3, Nathan Gilchrist 0-3, Mike Trautman 1-3, Josh Daychief 0-2, Jeff Wilson 0-1, Tyler Tamayose 0-2.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Daine Solomon 3-4, Patch Wirtzberger 1-3, Ian Spencer 0-3, Trent Normandy 1-4 (RBI), Jordon Patterson 2-4, Tony Christian 1-3, Ben Erickson 1-4, Eric Fanning 0-2 (RBI), Chase Castloo 0-1, Jeff Tibbals 1-3.
2B - Solomon, Christian
3B - none
HR - none
Havre 4, Lethbridge 2
Lethbridge Miners 100 010 000 - 2 9 3
Havre Northstars 003 100 00X - 4 6 3
Brent Wirzba and Mike Trautman; Brandon Morse (7), Ian Spencer and Patch Wirtzberger.
WP - Morse; LP - Wirzba; S - Spencer.
MINERS HITTING - Tyler Aiken 0-5, Kellon Kristjanson 1-5, Brent Wirzba 1-2, Tyler Tamayose 2-5, Matt Smith 2-4, Jared Hirsche 2-4, Mike Trautman 0-3, Nathan Gilchrist 1-3, Josh Daychief 0-4.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Daine Solomon 1-4, Patch Wirtzberger 0-3, Ian Spencer 1-3, Trent Normandy 0-3, Jordon Patterson 2-4 (RBI), Tony Christian 1-4 (2 RBI), Ben Erickson 1-4, Cory Junck 0-3, Jeff Tibbals 0-3.
2B - Christian
3B - Solomon
HR - none