Daniel Horton Havre Daily News email@example.com
Doing well during the long series of conference games is crucial for the Havre North Stars American Legion baseball team, and getting a two-game sweep on Wednesday was the perfect way to get things started. On Wednesday night at Legion Field, the North Stars hosted the Great Falls Sparkies in a conference double header. And the North Stars first defeated the Sparkies 9-8 in eight innings, and then 13-3 in five innings. “That was huge,” North Stars head coach Steve Fanning said. “We came into this saying we wanted the sweep. We need to play well against these types of teams, and if we do we are gong to be right in the middle of things in this league.” Game one didn’t’ go as smoothly as planned for the North Stars, and was a battle back and forth before finally capturing the win. “It was good to see them come from behind,” Fanning said. “That’s one thing about this team, we haven’t won a lot of games, but they aren’t afraid to come back and keep it close. We put together some good innings and got some big hits when we needed them.” Brandon Smith gave the North Stars a 1-0 lead with an RBI double in the first inning, but the Sparkies would answer right back with one run in the second and another in the third. Down 3-1, the North Star's bats went to work again. Smith led things off with a single while Kyle Miller followed with a double. And Paul Jensen earned an RBI single, while Shane Kemmer also drove in a run to tie things at 3-3. Kemmer then scored on a Sparkies' throwing error to put the North Stars up 4-3 heading into the fourth. But the Sparkies weren’t giving in either. In the fourth inning they managed to score two more runs on four hits and two North Star errors. And after holding the North Stars to just one hit in the bottom of the fourth, the Sparkies added three more runs in top of the fifth to retake the lead at 8-4. Smith started on the mound for the North Stars, and though he gave up eight runs in five innings, he had another good outing. But with four errors behind him, the defense struggled to support him. “The defense that game was poor,” Fanning said. “And Brandon (Smith), it seems like he gets stuck in those situations where he throws a good game and the defense doesn’t back him up.” But even with the defensive struggles, the North Stars offense bunkered down in the fifth inning and got back to work. Kemmer earned another RBI, this time coming on a triple. And Justin Jensen knocked in a run on single to bring the North Stars within two. In the sixth inning, Kemmer’s heroics arose once again. After Miller earned a base on balls, Kemmer drove him in with his second RBI triple of the game. And driving Kemmer in to tie the game at 8-8 was Justin Jensen who reached on an error. But the North Stars weren’t able to find the winning run until the bottom of the eighth inning. Tyler Olthoff reached on a single, and Smith moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt. And with two outs, Miller drove in the winning run with his second hit of the game. “We had guys executing bunts,” Fanning said. “And we had confidence when someone came up with a runner on second that they were going to drive them in. You want to feel confident when you are in that situation and I did.” Kemmer coming in to pitch in relief really gave the North Stars a shot at coming back and winning. He pitched three innings and gave up no runs after 11 batters faced. He also struck out two, walked only one and gave up only one hit. “He’s just been nails coming out of the bullpen in relief,” Fanning said of Kemmer. “That was good to see, he did well.” The bats came through for the North Stars, and almost every name in the lineup got a piece of the 13 total hits. Roman Surber, Smith (RBI), Paul Jensen (RBI) and Kemmer (3 RBI) all went 2-for-4 at the plate. And Miller (RBI) went 2-for-3, while Justin Jensen (2 RBI), Justin Denny and Olthoff all had a hit as well. “That’s been shy all year long,” Fanning said. “Both games it was throughout the game, it wasn’t just one big inning. And it was one through nine too; it wasn’t just the big hitters.” The bats continued to execute in game two against the Sparkies, and the North Stars tacked on 11 more hits on 21 at bats. And pitching came through for the North Stars as well. In the nightcap Justin Jensen took the mound, and he gave up only three runs on seven hits with four strikeouts. Jensen gave up one run in the top of the first, but the North Stars answered right back with four of their own. Miller drove in Surber to tie the game at 1-1, and Paul Jensen cleared the bases with a three-run home run to center field to put the North Stars up 4-1. In the second inning, Justin Jensen retired the first three Sprakies batters, and the North Stars added four more runs to the board. But this time it was Miller who would clear the bases with a two-run homerun, a shot to left field before the North Stars would complete a four-run, three-hit inning. “Homeruns I am not going to get too excited about,” Fanning said. “But it means that the kids are seeing the ball well and they are stroking it like they should be able to. It’s good to see and it gets the kids excited.” The third inning brought three more runs for the North Stars. And after Jon Currie and Surber would earn walks, they would force the Sparkies starting pitcher, Scott Held out of the game. But even with a fresh arm on the mound, the North Stars were still hitting the ball well. Smith moved the runners ahead with another sacrifice bunt, and Miller loaded the bases after being hit by a pitch. And still swinging a hot bat, Paul Jensen drove in two runs with a base hit to go up 10-1. And Kemmer added the third run with a RBI sacrifice fly ball to give the North Stars an 11-1 lead heading into the fourth. On three hits and one North Star error, the Sparkies would finally get on the board once again. They added two runs and brought themselves within eight, but the North Stars quickly extended their lead. Miller added two more RBIs to his game total in the fourth, and put the North Stars back up by 10 runs. And with a 13-3 lead, Justin Jensen went in and shut the Sparkies down with another one, two three inning. “Justin (Jensen) threw well,” Fanning said. “He kept his pitch count down and was working ahead on guys. He threw really well.” In game two, Miller and Paul Jensen led the North Stars. Miller was 3-for- 3 with five RBIs, and Paul Jensen was 2-for-2 with five RBIs of his own and both players had home runs. Justin Jensen was also 2-for-2 with an RBI, while Smith was 2-for-3, Surber was 1-for-2 and Currie was 1-for-2 as well. The North Stars moved to 5-5 in conference play, and are on the road to face the conference opponent Tri County Cardinals this afternoon at 3 p.m in Conrad.