George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
With all of the foul weather around this spring, it looked like the Havre North Stars American Legion baseball team might never get its season started. But the sun came out to play on Sunday at Legion Field, and so did the North Stars, as they took on the Great Falls Stallions in a seasonopening two-game set. And the season began with plenty of drama as the two teams split the double header, with Havre earning a hard-fought 5-4 come-from-behind win in game one, and the Stallions holding on for a 3-2 victory in game two. “Overall, I was pretty pleased with how we played,” Havre head coach Steve Fanning said. “I thought our pitching was good all day and we didn’t make a lot of physical errors in either game. “We have so many new kids and a lot of young kids so right now we’re just trying to move people around and figure out where everyone goes,” he added. “But I was pleased with how we played today.” The first game of the day gave Havre fans plenty to cheer about as the North Stars mounted a dramatic seventh-inning rally to pick up their first win of the season. Trailing 4-3 in the final inning, the North Stars charged back to tie the game when Paul Jensen crossed the plate on a fly to right by Josh Haas. Jensen had started the rally with a single up the middle, and was moved over on a ball put in play by Kyle Miller. And with Miller standing on second with one out, Tyler Olthoff ripped a walk-off single to give the North Stars a season-opening victory. Havre had to come back twice in the game as it trailed the Stallions 4-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth. But in that inning, the North Stars rallied for a pair of runs as rookie Justin Jensen started the rally with one of his three singles on the day, and later scored on an error. Cather Shane Kemmer also crossed the plate in the fifth when Paul Jensen singled with two outs to pull Havre to within 4-3 late in the game. “I was proud of the kids for stepping up and playing with some emotion at the end of the first game,” Fanning said. “Getting the big hit late in a game was something we lacked a little last year, but today we had some kids step up and get the job done when we needed it.” For the game, the Havre offense got 11 hits off of Great Falls starter Jake Bleskin, who went the distance and picked up the loss. The winning pitcher was Will DeVries, who came on in relief of starter Josh Haas, and held the Stallions scoreless the rest of the way. At the plate, Jensen was spectacular in his legion debut, while veterans Nick Nault and Jensen each had two hits. Kemmer, Miller and Haas also had hits for Havre, and Olthoff’s only hit turned out to be the game-winner. While the two teams combined for 24 hits in the opener, the second game was an old-fashioned pitcher’s dual with Havre on the losing end of a 3-2 decision. The first inning turned out to be the difference as Great Falls scored twice on a pair of Havre miscues, and Stallions’ starter Tyler Stanick did the rest, holding Havre to just three hits and a pair of runs. The North Stars weren’t without their own pitching standouts in the second game, as Miller, who was hit with the loss despite pitching so well, and Roman Surber combined to hold the Stallions to just six hits, and Surber really kept the North Stars in the game with a brilliant three innings of work. “I thought all four pitchers pitched really well today,” Fanning said. “Kyle and Roman were really good for the whole second game, and I thought Will DeVries came in and pitched great for us in the first game, especially after Josh pitched so well to start.” Late in the second game, the North Stars did mount another comeback. Down 3-0, Havre rallied to score once in the sixth and once in the seventh, before Stanick finally shut the door. Havre’s bats were stymied in game two, but Kemmer had a big outing, picking up a pair of hits, scoring twice and stealing two bases to pace the North Stars. “The hits will come,” Fanning said. “I wasn’t really expecting these games to be slugfests. I am really happy with how the kids played today because we did a lot of things right and our pitching was really good. This was a good start to the season.” The North Stars (1-1) and Stallions (1-1) will meet again on Sunday, this time at Don Olson Field in Great Falls. The doubleheader in Great Falls is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.