Havre Daily News Sports Editor
The Havre Northstars tightened their grip on a potential Northern District regular season title, winning three of four games on their recent Canadian road trip.
On Tuesday, Havre played a little Jekyll and Hyde in a split with Vauxhall Spurs. The Northstars crushed the Spurs 17-6 in the opener, only to turnaround and get spanked 13-3 in the nightcap.
The Northstars' bats, which have sometimes been quiet in conference games, erupted for 17 runs and 17 hits in a dominant showing.
Havre jumped out to a 7-1 lead after two innings as Josh Lowe, Patch Wirtzberger, Scott Ladenburg all had RBI singles, while Jeff Tibbals capped off the inning with an RBI double.
Vauxhall trimmed the lead to 7-4 in the bottom of the second as starter Austin Small was hurt by a costly error in the outfield and surrendered four hits in the inning.
The Northstars pushed the lead to 10-4 in the fourth as Ben Erickson ripped a three-run home run, the first for the team this season.
"Ben really hit the ball hard on the trip," said Northstars head coach Mickey Williams. "Every ball he hit was very sharp."
Havre broke the game open an inning later, scoring four runs thanks to a two-run single by Wirtzberger and a pair of manufactured runs. The Northstars tacked on three more in the sixth with Wirtzberger ripping another two-run single and Erickson chipping in with an RBI single.
"That's probably the best we hit the ball all season," Williams said. "Everybody was hitting the ball hard, which is what you want to see this time of the season."
Small picked up the win despite giving up six runs on 11 hits. Wirtzberger had three hits and five RBIs to lead the Northstars. Lowe also had three hits each, while Erickson had two hits and five RBIs.
"Austin did what he had to do to get the win," Williams said. "He wasn't extremely sharp, but he threw strikes and we made the plays behind him."
The nightcap couldn't have been more opposite than the opener. Havre managed just three hits off of Spurs starter Phil Vilay in an 11-1 loss.
"We didn't get anything going offensively," Williams said. "(Vilay) kept us off balance by throwing a lot of breaking pitches and getting ahead in the count."
While Havre's bats struggled, Vauxhall's came to life. The Spurs racked up 12 hits on Northstar starter Sean Peterson and scored runs in all but one of the five innings of action.
Havre's lone run came in the first inning as Erickson doubled home Lowe. But that was all the offense the Northstars would muster.
"We kind of lost that intensity that we showed in the first game," Williams said. "We seemed a little satisfied with that first win, when we really should have gotten a sweep."
On Wednesday, Williams got the sweep he wanted as the Northstars cruised past the Fort MacLeod Royals in a doubleheader.
With winds gusting and blowing baseballs all over the field, Havre still managed to put up some runs in a 13-3 five-inning win in the opener.
Havre jumped out to an 8-0 lead early on as Erickson had a three-run inside-the-park home run, Eric Fanning picked up a two-run single and Lowe had an RBI single.
The Royals only three runs came in the bottom of the third as three singles and an error off of Christian led to the scores.
Havre ended the game in five innings as Fanning and Chase Castloo had RBI singles in the fourth and Josh Morse laced a two-run single in the fifth.
After giving up the three runs, Christian held the Royal scoreless over the next two innings as the 10-run mercy rule was invoked.
"We hit the ball pretty well," Williams said. "The wind was blowing fairly hard straight in, but we did a decent job of overcoming it. Our kids have to learn to play through conditions like that. The wind always blows up there. I've seen it blow much harder than that."
Havre completed the sweep with an 8-4 win in the nightcap as Ladenburg picked up his first win of the season on the mound. He pitched the first four innings, allowing two runs on three hits before giving way to Tibbals.
"Scott pitched very well for us," Williams said. "He doesn't have a lot of pitching experience, but he's getting better every time he goes out there."
The Northstars grabbed a 4-0 lead, picking up two runs in the second inning on a Small single. Erickson continued his hot hitting with an RBI single in the third, while Peterson scored on a fielder's choice in the fourth.
Fort MacLeod finally got to Ladenburg in the fourth with two runs to cut the lead to 4-2. However, Havre tacked on two runs in the fifth on another RBI single from Erickson and a MacLeod error. The Northstars added a pair of insurance runs in the seventh as Erickson had yet another RBI single and Tibbals scored on a Royal error.
Tibbals picked up the save, pitching the final three innings and allowing two runs on two hits. Erickson was 3-for-4 with three RBIs, while Morse, Peterson and Small had two hits each.
With the three wins, Havre improved to 20-3 in the Northern District. With two more conference wins, they can sew up the regular season title.
"This was a big road trip for us," Williams said. "We want to get the regular season title taken care of as soon as possible and start preparing for the district tournament."
Havre will get some much needed rest with only a doubleheader against the Great Falls Stallions in Great Falls on Saturday.
Northstars 17, Spurs 6
Havre Northstars 250 343 - 17 17 1
Vauxhall Spurs 130 101 - 6 11 2
Austin Small and Patch Wirtzberger ; Spur Battery not available.
WP - Small; LP - n/a.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 3-4 (RBI); Patch Wirtzberger 3-4 (5 RBI); Josh Lowe 3-5 (2 RBI); Ben Erickson 2-4 (5 RBI); Josh Morse 0-5; John Christian 1-4; Sean Peterson 1-3; Eric Fanning 2-4; Scott Ladenburg 2-3 (RBI).
SPURS HITTING - B. Odland 3-3; Hutchison 1-4; T.J. Howg 3-4; Miller 1-3; Senkow 0-3; J.Odland 1-3; D. Howg 2-3; Turcato 0-2; Rhodes 2-3.
2B - Tibbals, B. Odland, J. Odland, Rhodes
3B - none
HR - Erickson, T.J. Howg
Spurs 11, Northstars 1
Havre Northstars 100 00 - 1 3 1
Vauxhall Spurs 312 05 - 11 12 2
Sean Peterson and Josh Morse; Vilay and Hutchison
WP - Vilay; LP - Peterson.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 1-3; Patch Wirtzberger 0-1; Josh Lowe 0-2; Ben Erickson 2-2 (RBI); Josh Morse 0-2; John Christian 0-2; Austin Small 0-3; Chase Castloo 0-3; Bryden Vukasin 0-1.
SPURS HITTING - B. Odland 1-1; D. Howg 1-3; T.J. Howg 3-3; Miller 3-3; D. Odland 1-3; Rhodes 1-3; Vilay 1-3; Williams 0-2; Hutchison 1-2.
2B - Erickson 2, T.J. Howg 2, Miller; Rhodes, Vilay
3B - none
HR - Miller
Northstars 13, Royals 3
Havre Northstars 107 32 - 13 14 3
Fort MacLeod Royals 003 00 - 3 3 1
John Christian and Patch Wirtzberger; Royal Battery n/a.
WP - Christian; LP - n/a.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 0-4; Patch Wirtzberger 2-2; Josh Lowe 3-4 (RBI); Ben Erickson 2-2- (3 RBI); Josh Morse 2-4 (2 RBI); Sean Peterson 2-3; Chase Castloo 1-3 (RBI); Eric Fanning 2-3 (3 RBI); Scott Ladenburg 0-3.
ROYALS HITTING - Kutcher 0-2; Gibboney 1-3; Wilson 1-3; Gibos 0-2; Handford 0-1; Burles 0-1; G.Gibboney 0-2; MacKenzie 0-2; Appelhof 1-2.
2B - Lowe, Erickson
3B - none
HR - Erickson
Northstars 8, Royals 4
Havre Northstars 021 120 2 - 8 12 4
Fort MacLeod Royals 000 211 0 - 4 3 3
Scott Ladenburg (4), Jeff Tibbals and Josh Morse; Royal batter n/a.
WP - Ladenburg; LP - N/A.
NORTHSTARS HITTING - Jeff Tibbals 1-4; Patch Wirtzberger 1-2; Josh Lowe 0-3; Ben Erickson 3-4 (3 RBI); Josh Morse 2-4; Sean Peterson 2-3; Austin Small 2-3 (2 RBI); Eric Fanning 0-2; John Christian 0-1; Bryden Vukasin 1-2; Scott Ladenburg 0-1.
ROYALS HITTING - Kutcher 0-3; Gibboney 1-3; Wilson 1-2; Gibos 0-3 Handford 1-4; Burles 0-3; MacKenzie 0-3; Appelhof 0-1; M. Wilson 0-3.
2B - Wirtzberger, Wilson
3B - none
HR - none