Havre Daily News Sports Editor
If the Havre Northstars have proven one thing this season, it's that they are never out of it until the final out is recorded.
The Northstars came from behind in all three of their wins at the Havre Jamboree and finished with a 3-1 record.
After yet another spring rainstorm washed out Thursday night's game against the Bitterroot Bucs, the two teams returned to a soggy Legion Field on Friday morning to make up the canceled game.
The Northstars made the most of the opportunity, overcoming an early 2-1 deficit, to pick up a 3-2 win.
Josh Lowe's single up the middle scored Ben Erickson in the bottom of the eighth inning to break a 2-2 tie and give Havre a big win.
Erickson led off the inning with a single to right off Bucs' reliever Jeremiah Hanna. He moved to second when Sean Peterson beat out a bunt. John Christian moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Hanna struck out Scott Ladenburg to get the second out of the inning, but Lowe delivered a the game-winner on the first pitch of the next at-bat with a sharp single past the outstretched glove of Bitterroot shortstop Chad Henderson.
"Josh came up with a big hit for us in that situation," said Northstars head coach Mickey Williams. "We showed a lot of heart and enthusiasm coming back in that game."
Bitterroot grabbed a 1-0 lead off Northstar starter Chase Castloo in the first inning, but Havre answered when Bryden Vukasin laced an RBI single to right to tie the game.
The Bucs retook the lead in the third with an RBI single from Tony Isbell. Havre tied the game in the fifth. Patch Wirtzberger reached on an error, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. He cruised home when Sean Peterson ripped an RBI double to right.
After the initial two runs, Castloo settled into a groove and held the Bucs scoreless the rest of the way to get the win. He pitched eight innings and overcame eight hits with seven strikeouts. Of his 118 pitches, Castloo threw 72 strikes.
"Chase pitched a great game," Williams said. "He really did a good job of spotting his pitches and getting out of a couple jams. Bitterroot is a good hitting team, and he shut them down late in the game."
Peterson led the Northstars with two hits, while Wirtzberger, Erickson, Vukasin, Lowe and Eric Fanning each had hits.
While Williams was happy with the win, he was disappointed with a few things, particularly runners left on base. The Northstars stranded nine runners on base, including seven in scoring position.
"We left way too many runners on base," Williams said. "On one hand, I was happy because it means we were doing things to get on, but we have to find a way to get those runners in."
Havre continued its come-from-behind ways on Friday night with a 5-4 win over the Bitterroot Red Sox. Trailing 4-3 going into their final at-bat, the Northstars got a bases-loaded single from Ben Erickson to tie the game at four. Erickson advanced to third and later scored on a Red Sox throwing error by first baseman Loran Carasell to get the win.
"Ben got a big hit for us in that situation," Williams said. "He'd been struggling a little bit earlier, but he came through when we needed him. We got a break on the winning run. Ben wasn't supposed to go and got hung up and their first baseman just rushed his throw."
The Red Sox, who eliminated Havre from the state tournament last year, score two runs in their opening at-bat, as Daniel Eccles delivered a two-run single off Northstar starter Sean Peterson. They pushed the lead to 4-0 when Brett Henry laced a single that scored a pair of runs. Havre cut into the lead, as Chase Castloo sliced a single to right that scored Wirtzberger and Austin Small. They added another run an inning later, as Wirtzberger continued to tear up the basepaths. After beating out an groundball to short, he stole second and third, and scored on a wild pitch from Daniel Eccles.
Peterson didn't allow a run over the final four innings to get the win. In seven innings of work, he allowed just six hits and struck out seven batters and walked none. Of his 102 total pitches, 76 were strikes.
"Sean pitched one of his best games of the season," Williams said. "He had great command of his pitches and got ahead of batters all night. They're a good hitting team and they run the bases aggressively. He did a good job of slowing them down."
Offensively, Havre had just seven hits. Tibbals and Lowe had two hits each, while Erickson, Castloo and Small added singles.
But Williams' comeback kids ran out of magic on Saturday night, as the Gallatin Valley Outlaws shut out the Northstars with a 6-0 win.
Gallatin Valley broke open a scoreless game in the top of the third, roughing up Northstar Jeff Tibbals for four runs. Kyle Clark ripped an RBI double and Toby Marx added a two-run single for the Outlaws. The Northstars also hurt themselves with a crucial error on a ground ball, while Tibbals balked home a run.
Havre simply couldn't muster anything offensively against Outlaw starter Brandon Oakes, who used a solid mixture of off-speed and breaking pitches to keep the Northstars off-balance. They managed just six hits - all singles - and left nine runners on base and struck out five times in the game.
"We really struggle against pitchers like that," Williams said. "I don't know why it is, but we just seem to always be behind in counts. We had a lot of opportunities to get runs, but we never got hits when we needed them."
But what disappointed Williams even more was his team's lack of enthusiasm after getting down 4-0.
"We didn't give up, but we just lost our intensity and energy after that big inning," Williams said. "We were so fired up the night before, but it seems like if we are down more than a couple of runs our enthusiasm just dies. We need to play every inning like its a tie game."
Tibbals took the loss, lasting till the fourth inning and allowing all six runs. Ladenburg came in in relief and pitched three scoreless innings.
"It was a nice surprise to see Scott pitch well," Williams said. "He hasn't pitched for us this year, and we needed someone to come and get some inning. He did a nice job and is someone we can use on the mound in the future."
The loss to the Outlaws and Williams' obvious disappointment was all that the Northstars needed to rebound and end the weekend on a positive note. Havre overcame six errors in the field and rallied from a 5-2 deficit to pick up a 7-5 win over the defending Class A state champion Glendive Blue Devils on Sunday.
Glendive took advantage of two Havre miscues in its opening at-bat, scoring three runs off Northstar starter Ben Erickson on just one hit - an RBI double from Joe Bakken.
"We can't start games like that," Williams said. "We put ourselves in a hole with errors. It really should have been a scoreless first inning."
Havre answered with a run in the bottom half of the inning. Wirtzberger drew a walked and moved to second on Lowe's single to left. He then stole third and scored after the throw-down trickled into left field.
The Northstars added another run in the third. Wirtzberger reached on an infield single and advanced all the way to third when Glendive pitcher Jordan Burback's pick-off throw went past first baseman Andy Odenbach into right field. Wirtzberger then scored on a Burback wild pitch to cut the lead to 3-2.
"That's what Patch does best," Williams said. "He makes things happen with his speed and puts a lot of pressure on the defense. He did that for us all weekend."
Glendive added some insurance runs in the fourth inning, as Erickson committed a throwing error on what appeared to be a sure a double play, allowing a run to score and keeping the inning alive. Robbie Radakovich plated the other run with a single to left.
Down 5-2, the Northstars didn't lose their intensity as they did the night before. They answered with their biggest scoring outburst of the weekend. Vukasin singled and Ladenburg reached on a walk. They both moved up a base on a walk. Eric Fanning scored Vukasin with a single to left. Peterson drew a walk to load the bases, forcing Glendive head coach Chad Jones to lift Burback and go with Brad Harrison.
Tibbals greeted Harrison with a hard ground ball to first, which scored Ladenburg. Lowe continued his hot hitting, delivering a two-out single to left, scoring Fanning and Peterson.
"Josh came up big again," Williams said. "Coming into this weekend, he hadn't seen a ton of playing time, but he's produced when we put him out there, and he'll be getting plenty of time in the future. He's very aggressive at the plate, and that's something that we need."
Havre added an insurance run in the sixth. Peterson reached on an error, stole second and moved to third on a balk call on Harrison. He later scored on Tibbals' sacrifice fly to left.
Erickson shut down the Blue Devils over the final three innings, allowing just one hit to secure the win.
"Ben did what he had to do to get the win," Williams said. "We didn't help him out much defensively. I know we're a better defensive team than that, but you aren't going to make every play and you have to find a way to overcome things like that."
Lowe finished with two of Havre's five hits. Fanning, Vukasin and Wirtzberger collected the three remaining hits.
While the loss to Gallatin Valley was disappointing, Williams will gladly take a 3-1 showing for the weekend, considering the talent level of his team's opponents.
"The four teams we played will all probably make the state tournament," Williams said. "For us to go 3-1 against them is very positive. I also liked the fact that we came back in all of our wins. The kids showed a little heart and it's going to help us later in the season."
Havre will return to action Wednesday when they host the Tri-County Cardinals at 6 p.m. in a Northern District doubleheader.
Northstars 3, Bucs 2
Bitterroot Bucs 101 000 00 - 2 8 2
Havre Northstars 010 001 01 - 3 7 0
J.C. Shepherd (6), Jeremiah Hanna and Kalen Ostheimer; Chase Castloo and Patch Wirtzberger
WP - Castloo; LP - Hanna.
BUCS HITTING - Phil Perez 1-4; Chad Henderson 2-4; Shane Taylor 0-1; Tony Isbell 3-3; J.C. Shepherd 1-3; Jeremiah Hanna 0-4; Aaron Blackwell 1-3; Dustin Lind 0-1; Kalen Ostheimer 0-1; Derrik Stephens 0-1; Cam Edman 0-3.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 0-4; Patch Wirtzberger 1-2; Austin Small 0-4; Ben Erickson 1-4; Sean Peterson 2-4; John Christian 0-3; Scott Ladenburg 0-3; Eric Fanning 1-3; Bryden Vukasin 1-2 (RBI); Josh Lowe 1-1 (RBI).
2B - Peterson, Isbell
3B - none
HR - none
Northstars 5, Red Sox 4
Bitterroot Red Sox 202 000 0 - 4 6 2
Havre Northstars 002 100 2 - 5 7 5
Jesse Gardner (4), Daniel Eccles and Lucky Barrett; Sean Peterson and Patch Wirtzberger.
WP - Peterson; LP - Eccles.
RED SOX HITTING - Jesse Gardner 1-4; Lucky Barrett 1-4; Brett Henry 1-4 (RBI); Daniel Eccles 1-3 (2 RBI); Tyler Gillespie 0-3; Loran Carasell 0-3; Chase Laine 1-3; Zach Hennigar 1-3; Luke Root 0-3.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 2-3; Patch Wirtzberger 0-2; Austin Small 1-3; Ben Erickson 1-3 (2 RBI); Chase Castloo 1-2 (2 RBI); Sean Peterson 0-3; John Christian 0-2; Bryden Vukasin 0-3; Josh Lowe 2-3.
2B - Tibbals
3B - none
HR - none
Outlaws 6, Northstars 0
Gallatin Valley Outlaws 004 200 0 - 6 9 1
Havre Northstars 000 000 0 - 0 6 2
Brandon Oakes and Keith Frost; Jeff Tibbals (4), Scott Ladenburg and Patch Wirtzberger, Josh Morse.
WP - Oakes; LP - Tibbals.
OUTLAWS HITTING - Kyle Clark 2-05 (2 RBI); Daniel Corbin 1-4 (RBI); Nate Anderson 0-3; Toby Marx 1-3 (2 RBI); Thomas Boyce 0-3; Riley Cope 1-3; Shane Thurston 1-3; Carson Anderson 1-3; Keith Frost 2-4.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 1-3; Patch Wirtzberger 1-2; Austin Small 0-4; Ben Erickson 0-3; Chase Castloo 1-1; Sean Peterson 0-3; John Christian 1-3; Eric Fanning 1-3; Josh Lowe 1-3; Scott Ladenburg 0-1.
2B - Clark, Thurston
3B - none
HR - none
Northstars 7, Blue Devils 5
Glendive Blue Devils 300 200 0 - 5 4 5
Havre Northstars 101 401 X - 7 5 4
Jordan Burback (3), Brad Harrison (3) and Colin Radakovich; Ben Erickson and Patch Wirtzberger.
WP - Erickson; LP - Harrison.
BLUE DEVILS HITTING - Robbie Radakovich 1-4 (RBI); Jordan Burback 0-2; Joe Bakken 1-4 (RBI); Colin Radakovich 1-4; Andy Odenbach 0-3; Evan Miller 1-3; Jason Erickson 0-2; Jess Wagner 0-2; Logan Meiers 0-3; Alex Tsomya 0-1.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 0-3 (2 RBI); Patch Wirtzberger 1-3; Josh Lowe 2-3 (2 RBI); Chase Castloo 0-3; Austin Small 0-3; Bryden Vukasin 1-1; Scott Ladenburg 0-1; Eric Fanning 1-3 (RBI); Sean Peterson 0-2; Josh Morse 0-1.
2B - Bakken, C. Radakovich
3B - none
HR - none