By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
There are easier ways to win baseball games - like a 7-3 win with little drama or suspense. Havre Northstar manager Mickey Williams would have gladly taken one of those.
Instead, Williams had to sweat out a late rally from the Bitterroot Bucs and endure an emotional last-inning comeback by his squad in a 9-8 win on Sunday in the final game of the Havre Baseball Jamboree at Legion Field.
Havre appeared headed for a relatively straightforward win, taking a 7-3 lead into the top of the seventh inning. However, Bitterroot simply wouldn't go away.
The Bucs opened the seventh with a harmless single from Cam Edman. But an error on a fielder's choice and a long triple from J.C. Shepherd cut the lead to 7-5. Shepherd later scored on Chad Henderson's sacrifice fly to cut the lead to one. Ryan Pecnick kept the Bitterroot rally going with a double to the left-center gap, putting runners on second and third.
Clinging to a 7-6 lead and with two Bucs runners in scoring position, Williams had pitcher Cory Junck intentionally walk Rhett Dunn to set up a force play. Junck promptly struck out Dan Greenburg to get two outs. However, Junck walked Phil Perez to tie the game. In his second at-bat of the inning, Edman hit a soft grounder to short that Trent Normandy mishandled, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
Havre finally got out of the inning as Junck got Chance Edman to ground into a fielder's choice to end the inning.
But the damage had been done. The Northstars gave up five runs in the inning on just three hits while committing three crucial errors.
"In baseball, there are three things that can hurt you - hits, walks and errors," Williams said. "And we had all three in that one inning. We need to learn how to close teams out and focus late in the game, especially with a lead."
But the blown lead only led to big-time heroics. Normandy led off the inning keen on a little redemption for the booted ground ball. And he did just that, blasting a Shepherd fastball over the centerfield fence for a game-tying home run. It was his third hit of the game and his fourth run batted in.
"Trent's hitting is really starting to come along," Williams said. "I know he was unhappy about the way he played defensively, but his hitting helped make up for it."
But the Northstars weren't finished. Chase Castloo followed up Normandy's blast with a single to left to put the winning run aboard. He was moved to second on a perfect sacrifice bunt by Brandon Morse.
"That was a really big play for us," Williams said of the bunt. "It wasn't easy because they knew Brandon was going to bunt and he only had a small area where he could bunt it to move Chase over."
With Castloo on second, designated hitter Bret Magelssen lined a single to left, and Castloo raced home with the winning run.
"Obviously, we would have liked to not let them back in the game and end without having to bat," Williams said. "But the kids showed a lot of heart and enthusiasm the entire game. It was just a fun game to be in."
Junck picked up the win for Havre, pitching all seven innings and allowing eight runs on eight hits. He struck out five Bucs hitters while walking five.
"Cory did what he had to do to keep us in the game," Williams said. "We certainly didn't help him out very much at times. But that's a good hitting team he pitched against, and they're going to get their hits and runs."
Offensively, Havre was led by Normandy, who banged out an RBI double and a two-run single to go with his home run. Magelssen and Patch Wirtzberger added two hits and two RBIs each.
The win put a positive spin on what had been a tough jamboree for the Northstars. After opening with a close win over Deer Lodge, the Northstars dropped a pair of games to two of the top teams in Class A.
On Friday night, the Bitterroot Red Sox capitalized on Havre's one bad inning for a 5-3 win. The Red Sox scored all five of their runs in the top of the third inning, due to a couple of Northstar mistakes and some timely hitting. The loss dimmed an otherwise bright performance by Morse, who allowed nine hits and struck out nine batters.
"That seems to be our problem lately," Williams said. "We always have that one bad inning. It's like we kind of lose focus, and then things go wrong and snowball from there."
Havre was led offensively by Junck and Jordon Patterson with two hits each. The Northstars had nine hits as a team, but couldn't seem to get the big hit when they needed it, stranding 10 runners on base.
"We certainly had our opportunities," Williams said. "We just never came through. That's way too many runners left on base."
On Saturday night, the Northstars' bats were even quieter in a 6-1 loss to the Gallatin Valley Outlaws. Havre was held to just five hits by 16-year-old starter Patrick Sinnema in the loss.
Defensively, the Northstars didn't do themselves any favors, committing two errors that led to three runs. Castloo worked all seven innings in the loss, allowing three earned runs on six hits. He struck out five batters, but walked six in his second loss of the season.
Bitterroot Red Sox 5,
Havre Northstars 3
Bitterroot Red Sox 005 000 0 - 5 8 3
Havre Northstars 000 101 1 - 3 9 3
Ryan Curran (WP), Cory Tintzman (S) and Patrick McKay; Brandon Morse (LP) and Ricky Houim.
RED SOX HITTING - Kyle Melton 2-4, Jordan Mousely 1-3, David DeSantiago 0-4, Bret Henery 1-4, Dan Eccles 0-3, Ryan Curran 0-4, Ross Anderson 2-4, Patrick McKay 1-2, Lucky Barrett 1-2 (RBI).
NORTHSTAR HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 0-3, Patch Wirtzberger 1-3, Daine Solomon 2-4, Ricky Houim 0-2, Cory Junck 2-4 (RBI), Tony Christian 1-2, Jordon Patterson 2-4 (RBI), Chase Castloo 0-2, Bret Magelssen 1-2 (RBI).
2B - Christian
3B - none
HR - none
Gallatin Valley Outlaws 6,
Havre Northstars 1
Gallatin Valley Outlaws 130 101 0 - 6 6 1
Havre Northstars 010 000 0 - 1 5 2
Patrick Sinnema (WP) and Taylor Blakely; Chase Castloo (LP) and Ricky Houim.
OUTLAW HITTING - Zeb Miller 2-2 (RBI), Kyle Clark 3-4 (3 RBI), Taylor Blakely -4, Justin Chaffins 0-2, Jeremy Knowles 0-3, Shane Thurston 0-4, Thomas Boyce 0-3, Riley Cope 0-2, Dan Corbin 0-2.
NORTHSTAR HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 0-2, Patch Wirtzberger 1-3, Daine Solomon 1-3, Ricky Houim 0-3, Trent Normandy 1-3, Brandon Morse 0-2, Cory Junck 0-2, Ben Erickson 0-1, Tony Christian 0-1, Eric Fanning 1-1, Jordon Patterson 0-1, Bret Magelssen 1-2.
2B - Miller
3B - none
HR - Miller
Havre Northstars 9,
Bitterroot Bucs 8
Bitterroot Bucs 002 100 5 - 8 8 2
Havre Northstars 103 210 2 - 9 13 6
JC Shepherd (LP) and Cam Edman; Cory Junck (WP) and Ricky Houim.
BUC HITTING - Phil Perez 1-4 (RBI), Cam Edman 1-2, Chance Edman 1-2, JC Shepherd 2-5 (4 RBI), Tyler LeClaire 0-4, Chad Henderson 0-3, Ryan Pencick 0-3, Rhett Dunn 1-3, Dan Greenberg 0-4.
NORTHSTAR HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 1-2, Patch Wirtzberger 2-3 (2 RBI), Ricky Houim 1-4 (2 RBI), Trent Normandy 3-4 (4 RBI), Jordon Patterson 1-3 (RBI), Brandon Morse 0-3, Bret Magelssen 2-4 (2 RBI), Tony Christian 1-3, Ben Erickson 1-3.
2B - Wirtzberger, Normandy, Magelssen, Christian, Perez, Shepherd, Pecnick
3B - Patterson, Shepherd
HR - none