By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sports/ firstname.lastname@example.org
It's starting to become an annual tradition.
The Master Sports men's fast pitch softball team from Havre once again dominated the competition at this past weekend's Montana Fast Pitch Class C State tournament in Billings.
The team rode three outstanding pitching performances from Ryan Divish to repeat as state champions. But according to Havre veteran player Mike Sherrill, it was more than Divish's domination on the mound that led to the club's fifth state championship in the last 11 years.
"Ryan was dominant just like he was last year," Sherrill said. "But we had a lot of speed on this team and that puts a lot of pressure on the other teams in the tournament. Speed is tough to beat.
"We also have a really nice mix of veterans and and young kids and they can all hit and they play good defense and all that came together this weekend."
Master Sports started the tournament off by routing Breidenbach Fireworks of Billings 11-3 in the opening game on Saturday. Andy Smith picked up the win on the mound and former Havre High and Havre Northstar standout Steve Heberly went 4-4 with four RBIs.
In the quarterfinals, Divish hurled a five-inning no-hitter against Squires/Stadium Club of Billings. Divish walked three batters and didn't allow a ball to be hit out of the infield.
Master Sports was far from being no-hit, pounding out 16 runs on 22 hits, including 10 in the first inning. Divish also starred at the plate going three for five with a two-run homer and three RBI's. Kyle Sheppard also ripped a two-run homer and Heberly had a two-run inside the park home run.
"Ryan threw really well in that game and we crushed them in the first inning," Sherrill said. "He was tremendous all weekend and he has proven that he is a veteran pitcher and theguy to beat in the state right now."
The no-hitter propelled the club into Sunday's semifinal where they downed the Black Eagle Country Club Bolts of Great Falls 9-1. Divish, again, picked up the win on the mound, while belting his second homer of the tournament.
Smith was also solid from the plate going two for three with a triple and a pair of RBIs. Rob Watson, Scott Leeds, Andy Anderson, Sheppard and Sherrill added two hits each for MS.
The Bolts rebounded to beat Silver Dollar of Missoula to get into a rematch with Master Sports in the championship game. MS would have to be beaten twice in order to lose the title, but one game was all it took.
Behind another strong pitching performance from Divish, the club pounded out 15 runs, including three home runs, en route to an easy 15-1 victory and a second consecutive state championship.
Sheppard put MS ahead in the second inning, shaking off a dislocated shoulder from the first inning of the game to pick up a clutch two-out RBI single to take 3-0 lead.
Smith broke open the game in the top of the fifth with a two-run home run to left field.
Master Sports turned the game into a blowout in the sixth, scoring nine run on eight hits. Leeds started off the big inning with a two-run single, followed by a run-scoring single from Smith. Divish ripped a three-run home run and Mace Mangold added a three-run homer to left to cap the big inning.
"Everyone played really well all weekend," Sherrill said. "The whole team played good defense and we absolutely crushed the ball every game."
Sherrill also contemplated the reason for which the team won the title this year with relative ease.
"It is the same teams we always play and they have the same guys pitching," he said. "I have played this game for a long time and I have seen teams stay on top for long periods of time. Nobody's run at the top will last forever, but I just think right now it is our turn and it is our time to be the team to beat."