By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
Frigid weather or not, Havre Northstars manager Mickey Williams wasn't accepting any excuses on Friday night after watching his team play.
The Northstars looked cold and stiff in a split with the Great Falls Stallions A squad.
"We just didn't play very well at all," Williams said. "I can't remember the last time the Northstars lost to the Stallions A, but it's been a few years. But the way we played, we didn't deserve to win."
Things didn't looks so bad initially. Despite the chilly temperatures, the Havre bats were hot early, capitalizing on some early control problems by Great Falls' Jason Remus.
Havre scored two runs in the first inning. Ian Spencer ripped an RBI single through the left side and Ben Erickson drew a bases-loaded walk to take a 2-0 lead.
The Northstars tacked on three more runs in the second inning, as Cory Junck and Trent Normandy led off the inning with hits. Daine Solomon drove in Junck on a hard ground-ball single, and Spencer scored Normandy and Solomon on his second hit of the game.
Up 5-0 going into the third, the Northstars and Brandon Morse appeared to be cruising to an easy win. But the wheels fell off in the top of the third inning as Morse couldn't seem to throw a strike. Morse walked three of the first four batters he faced to load the bases. Great Falls capitalized as Eliot Burrow knocked a single to left. Morse recorded a strikeout to get his second out of the inning and then proceeded to walk the next six batters, leading to four more runs.
With the Northstars missing some players to track and tennis and being short on pitching, Williams stayed with Morse throughout the marathon inning.
"We didn't have much of a choice," Williams said. "We only had one player on the bench, and he had just pitched seven innings two days before that. Besides, Brandon needed to find his way out of that inning; he got himself into the trouble. His mechanics broke down and he just couldn't make the adjustment."
Besides giving Great Falls an 8-5 lead, Morse threw 77 pitches in the inning and was basically done for the evening. He started the fourth inning, but got into more trouble. Williams went to the one player on his bench, Bret Magelssen in relief, and Magelssen responded.
Pitching on basically a day's rest, Magelssen continued his solid pitching from Wednesday's shutout of the Havre Comets, not allowing a single hit or base runner the rest of the game.
"Bret did a fantastic job," Williams said. "Obviously, you don't like to put a pitcher in that situation with that little of rest. But he said he felt good and he really came and gave us a lift."
With Magelssen shutting down the Stallions, Havre began the rally process, picking up a run in the third on an RBI single from Eric Fanning. The Northstars added three runs in the fourth, including the game-tying run on Erickson's RBI single.
Havre took the lead in the fifth inning. Junck led off with a single and later scored on Spencer's fourth hit of the game, an RBI double to the right-center gap.
Spencer finished the game with three hits, four RBIs and two runs scored to lead the Havre attack. Erickson added a pair of hits and a pair of RBIs, while Junck finished with three hits and three runs scored. Magelssen got the win in relief of Morse.
"I was glad to see us come back after the one bad inning," Williams said. "We probably shouldn't have been in the situation, but it's still good to see."
However, any positive notes from the first game were erased in the nightcap, as the Stallions upset the Northstars 6-4.
The Northstars committed three costly errors, stranded nine runners on base, and never could come up with a key hit in the loss.
"There is no reason we should have lost that game," Williams said. "We just didn't get hits when we needed them. We got runners in scoring position and couldn't get them in."
The loss soured a pretty solid pitching performance from Normandy, who settled down after a rough first inning to strike out 13 Stallion batters.
Great Falls grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning, capitalizing on a lead-off walk followed by four consecutive hits. Normandy battled back to strike out the final two batters to end the inning.
Havre answered with a run of its own that Solomon manufactured by stealing second base and inducing a pair of overthrows by the Stallions. The Northstars got two more runs in the third. Solomon's fielder's choice scored Jordon Patterson, and Morse looped an RBI single to left field to score a run and give Havre a 3-2 lead.
Great Falls tied the game an inning later and took the lead in the top of the seventh, scoring a pair of runs on a hit and a costly throwing error. The two-run lead was good enough to hold up, as reliever Ricky Hedstrom held the Northstars scoreless the final two innings to secure the win.
"When you keep teams in the game, they're going to have a chance to win," Williams said. "Things like errors and mistakes are always magnified in games."
Morse finished 2-4 with two RBIs, while Spencer added two hits for Havre. Normandy took the loss despite allowing just three earned runs, striking out 13 batters and walking just one.
The loss was disappointing to Williams and his players, but he hopes it will be a motivating factor.
"Obviously, this is a little reality check for our players," Williams said. "It shows them that they have to do things right to win and it starts at practice. I think it's definitely going to motivate them a little."
The remainder of games scheduled for this past weekend were rained out and will be made up at a later date. The Northstars will be in action on Wednesday when they face the Comets in conference action at 7 p.m., weather permitting.
Northstars 10, Stallions 9
Great Falls Stallions 008 100 0 - 9 3 1
Havre Northstars 231 231 X - 10 15 1
Jason Remus, Kyle DeBolt (LP) and Elliott Burrow; Brandon Morse, Bret Magelssen (WP) and Ricky Houim.
STALLIONS HITTING - Elliot Burrow 2-4, Kevin Hatley 1-4.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Cory Junck 3-4, Trent Normandy 1-2, Daine Solomon 2-4 (RBI), Ian Spencer 3-3 (4 RBI), Ricky Houim 1-4, Jordon Patterson 1-3, Ben Erickson 2-3 (2 RBI), Bret Magelssen 0-4, Eric Fanning 2-4 (RBI).
2B - Spencer, Patterson
3B - none
HR - none
Stallions 6, Northstars 4
Great Falls Stallions 210 100 2 - 6 9 4
Havre Northstars 102 010 0 - 4 9 3
Carter Lewis, Ricky Hedstrom (WP) and John Coleman; Trent Normandy (LP) and Ricky Houim.
STALLIONS HITTING - Bryce Thompson 3-3, Caleb Kovatch 1-4, Kevin Hatley 2-4, Jeremy Bates 2-3.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Cory Junck 1-4, Jordon Patterson 1-4, Daine Solomon 0-4 (RBI), Ian Spencer 2-3, Ricky Houim 1-4, Brandon Morse 2-4 (2 RBI), Ben Erickson 0-2, Eric Fanning 1-3.
2B - Morse, Hovin, Hatley, Thompson
3B - none
HR - none