Daniel Horton Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Playing in their last series before the Northern District Tournament, the Havre North Stars American Legion baseball team was looking for a few more conference wins. But on a tough road trip to Canada, the North stars returned home after going 1-3. On Saturday, the North Stars defeated the Vauxhall Spurs 10-8, before the Spurs would defeat the North Stars 6-4 to split the series in Vauxhall. And on Sunday, the Lethbridge Spitz Miners swept the North Stars by scores of 10-1 and 10-0. The North Stars got their road trip off to a good start by capturing game one against the Spurs. Brandon Smith took to the mound for the North Stars, and threw four outstanding innings, helping his team to an early 10-0 lead. But trying to close in the fifth, Smith ran into some trouble, giving up five runs. But in his four and a half innings of work, Smith did register seven strikeouts. “Brandon started to struggle with his control,” North Stars head coach Steve Fanning said. “And they took advantage.” Kyle Miller entered the game in relief and was able help capture the 10-8 victory. Offensively, the North Stars started strong and composed, but fell dormant in the last few innings of play, scoring no runs after a quick 10. Miller was 1-of- 3 with an RBI, while Smith was 1-of-2 with two RBIs. Tyler Olthoff was also 1-of-2 and scored two runs, while Paul Jensen went 1-of-3 with a homerun and four RBIs. “Offensively we were on fire for the first five innings, then falling asleep for the last two,” Fanning said. “I was pretty pleased with my seven-nine hitters, they all reached base and scored two times apiece. That is what our team needs to be successful.” In game two against the Spurs, pitching struggled for the North Stars. Paul Jensen started on the mound, and was relieved after two and a half innings of work, and after giving up six runs. “You could tell he didn't have his best stuff,” Fanning said. “And Vauxhall jumped on it.” But a good performance by Gareth Bernard in relief kept the Spurs scoreless for the rest of the game. “It was good to see Gareth come into the game in a tight situation and get some outs and pitch effectively,” Fanning said. “Our bats were cold and we couldn't muster up enough offense.” Justin Jensen was 2-of-3, and scored two runs for the North Stars. And Paul Jensen was 2-of-2 with two RBIs, while Roman Surber turned in a 2-of-3 performance with two RBIs. Miller also had a hit, going 1-of-4 in the game. “We definitely had opportunities, but couldn't close the deal,” Fanning said. “This was one of those games where the offense wasn't spread out throughout the lineup. Our two-five hitters were the only ones getting hits. You won't win games with those stats.” On Sunday, the North Stars had another tough conference doubleheader before making their way back to Havre. Taking on the Spitz Miners, the North Stars style of play was nowhere near the level it should have been for this point in the season. The pitching was decent, but the offense couldn’t convert, while the defense also struggled. “This was probably the worst double header we have played since back in May,” Fanning said. “We definitely were not ready to play, and Lethbridge showed up.” Justin Jensen started on the mound for the North Stars, and threw well for three innings, keeping the Spitz Miners scoreless. But in the fourth inning the Spitz Miners were able to break their slump and put six runs on the scoreboard, taking advantage of the struggling North Star defense. “Our defense had one of those innings again,” Fanning said. “And it showed on Justin, throwing a lot more pitches than he needed and getting fatigued early.” And offensively the North Stars were getting hits, but not when they counted. Not when they had men in scoring position. Justin Jensen was 3-of-3 to lead the offense, while Smith was 2-of-4, Miller was 1-of-4, Bernard was 1-of-2 and Brayden Grimson was 1-of-3. In the North Stars road finale Sunday, things didn’t get any better. Surber took to the mound and gave up five runs in the first two innings of play. And offensively, he didn’t get any run support. Havre had only three hits in the game, and the game was called after five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule. “As a coaching staff we were disappointed in our last stretch of conference games,” Fanning said. “This is not the way we wanted to head into the district tournament. Overall we will be the fifth or sixth seed in the conference, when we could have very well been the third if we would have picked up a couple more wins this weekend.” The North Stars (13-13) will host the Northern District Tournament starting Thursday at Legion Field. Havre plays Vauxhall in the opening round Thursday at 6:30 p.m.