Havre Daily News Sports Editor
No offense to baseball purists, but the Havre Northstars will stick to their aluminum bats until they are taken away.
Havre fought through some slow offensive moments to finish a respectable 2-2 at the Vester Wilson Wood Bat tournament in Hamilton.
"It's more in their head than anything," said Northstars head coach Mickey Williams. "There isn't as much difference swinging wood bats as metal bats. It takes a little getting used to, but we shouldn't have had as much trouble early on."
The Northstars offensive struggles were apparent early in a 3-0 loss to the Bitterroot Red Sox to open the tournament on Friday.
The Red Sox jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning off of Northstar starter Ben Erickson. Dan Eccles delivered the big blow with a two-run double in the inning.
The three runs would be all that Red Sox starter Chase Laine would need. Laine held the Northstars to just two hits - a pair of Patch Wirtzberger singles - over the next seven innings to get the shutout. Laine struck out five Northstars and walked just one.
"We didn't get much going offensively," Williams said. "Two hits isn't going to win you many games."
Indeed, Havre managed just four base runners the entire game. Wirtzberger did advance to third following a first inning single, but was stranded there.
Erickson took the loss despite allowing just the three runs on five hits. He struck out two and walked two in seven innings.
"We didn't play that badly and Ben pitched pretty well, but we didn't have anything going offensively," Williams said.
In their second game on Friday, the Northstars did manage to get on the scoreboard, but it wasn't much of a consolation in a 13-3 loss to the Bitterroot Bucs.
Havre broke out of its offensive slump somewhat, scoring a run in the first inning as Wirtzberger got things going with a single and advanced to second on a passed ball. Erickson drove him in with a single up the middle.
However, the Bucs answered with four runs in the bottom half of the inning off of Havre starter John Christian. Jeremiah Hanna ripped a two-run double and Logan Person added an RBI single to highlight the inning.
The Northstars cut the lead to 4-3 in the top of the second as Sean Peterson and Josh Morse led off with singles. They later scored on an error on a Wirtzberger ground ball.
Bitterroot pushed the lead to 5-3 in the bottom of the fourth as Tony Isbell delivered an RBI single. Still, the game was well in reach for the Northstars until the bottom of the sixth where it got totally out of hand.
The Bucs scored eight runs on six hits and capitalized on two Havre errors to end the game via the 10-run mercy rule.
Christian got himself into trouble with a walk and a hit batsmen. Things only worsened as Bitterroot ripped off seven consecutive hits to score eight runs.
"We just couldn't do anything to get out of the inning," Williams said. "John really started to tire towards the end there. With the exception of the one bad inning, we didn't play that badly."
However, the two Northstar errors were really costly, leading to eight unearned runs in the game.
Offensively, Havre had only five hits in the game as Wirtzberger, Erickson, Peterson, Morse and Jeff Tibbals all had singles.
An 0-2 start wasn't exactly how Williams envisioned starting the tournament, but his team made him feel better with a big 5-4 win over the Gallatin Valley Outlaws on Saturday.
The game didn't start out the way the Northstars wanted as the Outlaws jumped out to an early lead, scoring three runs in the top of the first off of Northstar starter Jeff Tibbals.
Taylor Blakely and Nate Anderson delivered RBI singles in the inning. GVO pushed the lead to 4-0 in the third inning as Boyce scored on a double steal.
Havre cut the lead in half, scoring two runs in the fourth inning as Austin Small and Chase Castloo each smacked RBI doubles. The Northstars took the lead two innings later as Castloo, Morse and Christian each racked up RBI singles to push the lead to 5-4.
Tibbals shut the Outlaws down in their final at-bat, working out of a bases loaded jam, striking out Thomas Boyce and getting Justin Chaffins to ground out.
"Jeff pitched a terrific game," Williams said. "They hit him early, but he made some adjustments and did a nice job of keeping them off balance and got ahead with some off-speed stuff."
After surrendering the early four runs, Tibbals held Gallatin Valley scoreless over the final four innings, surrendering just three hits.
He worked all seven innings, allowing no earned runs on five hits, while striking out six batters and walking just two to pick up his sixth win of the season.
Offensively, Castloo and Josh Lowe had two hits each, while Morse and Christian each had run-scoring singles.
Havre wrapped up the tournament on Sunday with a solid 3-0 win over the Kennewick, Wash Dusters.
The Northstars rode the stellar pitching of Small, who allowed just five hits in the complete game shutout.
Small allowed one runner to reach second base in the game and walked just one batter in the game. He improved his team-best record to 8-1 on the season.
Havre got a run in the first inning as Tibbals led off with a single and later scored on Erickson's single to right. The Northstars added a pair of insurance runs in the fifth inning as Scott Ladenburg delivered a big two-run single, scoring Tibbals and Wirtzberger.
Offensively, Tibbals had two hits, while Erickson, Ladenburg and Peterson added hits.
While the two losses to start off the weekend weren't exactly what Williams had in mind, he was happy with the end results.
"I think we played pretty well for the most part," he said. "These were some solid teams. But we have to stay focused because we have a lot of games over the next 10 days."
The Northstars (25-11) will be in Conrad today to face the Tri-County Cardinals in a Northern District doubleheader starting at 3 p.m.
They will return to Havre on Wednesday to face Vauxhall in a twin bill starting at 7 p.m.
Red Sox 3, Northstars 0
Havre Northstars 000 000 0 - 0 2 2
Bitterroot Red Sox 300 000 0 - 3 5 2
Ben Erickson and Patch Wirtzberger; Chase Laine and Patrick McKay
WP - Laine; LP - Erickson
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 0-2; Patch Wirtzberger 2-3; Josh Lowe 0-3; Ben Erickson 0-3; Austin Small 0-3; Sean Peterson 0-2; Chase Castloo 0-2; Eric Fanning 0-2; John Christian 0-2.
RED SOX HITTING - James Wood 1-3; Jordan Mousley 0-2; Jesse Gardner 1-3; Brett Henry 0-3 (RBI); Dan Eccles 2-3 (2 RBI); Patrick McKay 1-3; Tyler Gillespie 0-2; Jasper Miller 0-3; Chase Laine 0-2.
2B - Eccles
3B - none
HR - none
Bucs 13, Northstars 3
Havre Northstars 120 000 - 3 5 4
Bitterroot Bucs 400 108 - 13 14 2
John Christian and Patch Wirtzberger; Arron Blackwell and Kalen Ostheimer
WP - Blackwell; LP - Christian
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 1-3; Patch Wirtzberger 1-2; Josh Lowe 0-3; Ben Erickson 1-2 (RBI); Austin Small 0-3; Sean Peterson 1-2; Josh Morse 1-2; Chase Castloo 0-1; Bryden Vukasin 0-3; Scott Ladenburg 0-3.
BUCS HITTING - Phil Perez 2-3 (2 RBI); Chad Henderson 1-4; Cam Edman 2-3 (RBI); Tony Isbell 2-3 (2 RBI); J.C. Shepherd 1-4 (RBI); Jeremiah Hanna 2-4 (3 RBI); Logan Person 2-4 (RBI); Justin Moe 1-2 (RBI); Kalen Ostheimer 1-4.
2B - Hanna, Perez
3B - none
HR - none
Northstars 5, Outlaws 4
Gallatin Valley Outlaws 301 000 0 - 4 5 3
Havre Northstars 000 203 0 - 5 9 4
Keith Frost (5), Brandon Oakes (1), Toby Marx (1) and Justin Chaffins; Jeff Tibbals and Josh Morse.
WP - Tibbals; LP - Oakes
OUTLAWS HITTING - Kyle Clark 0-3; Taylor Blakely 1-3 (RBI); Nate Anderson 1-2 (RBI); Thomas Boyce 0-1; Justin Chaffins 0-3; Daniel Corbin 0-3; Tyler Child 1-3; Brian Ward 1-3; Gene White 0-2; Shane Thurston 0-1; Ethan Eisbend 0-2; Riley Cope 1-1.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Patch Wirtzberger 0-3; Sean Peterson 1-3; Josh Lowe 2-3; Ben Erickson 0-2; Austin Small 1-1 (RBI); Chase Castloo 2-3 (2 RBI); Josh Morse 1-3 (RBI); Eric Fanning 1-3; Scott Ladenburg 0-1; John Christian 1-1 (RBI)
2B - Small, Castloo,
3B - none
HR - none
Northstars 3, Dusters 0
Kennewick Dusters 000 000 0 - 0 5 3
Havre Northstars 100 020 0 - 3 5 1
Opitz and Swan; Austin Small and Patch Wirtzberger
WP - Small; LP - Opitz
DUSTERS HITTING - Forgette 1-3; Jones 1-2; Swan 1-3; Edminster 1-3; Garrett 0-2; Arent 0-1; Galbraight 1-3; Beehler 0-3; McAloon 0-2; Opitz 0-2.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 2-3; Patch Wirtzberger 0-2; Josh Lowe 0-1; Scott Ladenburg 1-2 (2 RBI); Ben Erickson 1-3 (RBI); Sean Peterson 1-3; Chase Castloo 0-3; John Christian 0-3; Eric Fanning 0-2; Bryden Vukasin 0-2.
2B - none
3B - none
HR - none