Daniel Horton Havre Daily News email@example.com
Understanding how crucial conference wins are at this point in the season, the Havre North Stars American Legion baseball team stepped up in a big way. On Tuesday, the North Stars played host to the defending Class A champion Vauxhall Spurs in a Northern District doubleheader at Legion Field. And in two games, the North Stars got two big wins. First, the North Stars defeated the Spurs 15-5 in five innings, and then, in a just as impressive a win, the North Stars beat the Spurs 12-2 in five innings of play. “Those were huge wins for us,” North Star's head coach Steve Fanning said. “Vauxhall is a team that has kicked our tail the last couple years. I know they are down, but it still feels good to beat them around a little bit the way that we did.” And with the two-game sweep, the North Stars put themselves right back into the mix with a .500 conference record of 8-8. Brandon Smith took the mound for game one for the North Stars and had another outstanding appearance. He pitched five complete innings, and faced 25 batters while only allowing five runs on four hits. The North Stars big first inning gave them a 4-0 lead. They batted through the order, and forced a Spurs pitching change after sending the first seven batters to the plate. Getting the North Stars on the board was Paul Jensen with an RBI single, which was followed by a Joe Malisani RBI single, a Roman Surber RBI walk and Shane Kemmer scoring on a pass ball. And Vauxhall's Coltan LaBoucane didn’t have much success against the North Stars in relief. In the second inning, the North Stars added eight more runs to the board on three hits and a Spurs error and all eight runs came with two outs. Kemmer knocked in a run with a triple to right field, and then came around to score on another passed ball. And two more North Star runs scored when Will DeVries reached on a Spurs error. Justin Jensen got in on the action by driving in a run after being hit by a pitch, and Kyle Miller added to the barrage of runs with a bases clearing double. The North Stars held a 12-0 lead, but the Spurs would wake up to make some noise in the top of the third. And after two hits and a North Star's error, the Spurs cut the deficit to 12-5. But in another strong showing at the plate, the North Stars would stretch the lead to 14-5 in the fourth on a Justin Jensen sacrifice fly and a Spur's error. And after shutting out the Spurs in the fifth, the North Stars would take the opportunity to end things early by manufacturing the winning run in the fifth inning. Kemmer led the way by reaching first after being hit by a pitch, and Malisani got aboard with a single. And loading the bases was Surber, who was also put on first after being hit by a pitch. And with Tyler Olthoff at the plate, Kemmer scored the winning run on yet another Spurs passed ball. Miller went 2-of-3 in game one and also had three RBIs for the North Stars. And Paul Jensen was 2-of-4, Malisani was 2-of-3 and Kemmer was 1-of-2, all with an RBI. Smith also scored three runs for the North Stars. “Our hitters stepped up,” Fanning said. “They had big days, but we also had men on base throughout, so that was huge. It’s a point to get them on base, but it also takes a point to get a big hit and that’s what we did.” The bats stayed hot for the North Stars in the nightcap as well. Paul Jensen was 3-of-3 with two RBIs and scored three runs. And Miller was 2-of-3 with two RBIs, while Gareth Bernard was 2-of-2 with two RBIs and Surber was 1-of-2 with two RBIs. And Smith was 2-of-3, while Kemmer, Malisani and DeVries all got a hit as well. In another outstanding pitching performance, Havre's Justin Jensen was the ace on the mound in game two for the North Stars. And after facing 22 batters, he allowed only two runs on six hits. But it wasn’t the pitching alone that gave the North Star's success in two games, it was overall good play. “We didn’t just get good pitching,” Fanning said. “Our hitting was there, our pitching was there and our defense was there. We had a couple mistakes, but we held together. We looked a lot better today.” The North Stars shut out the Spurs in the top of the first inning of the second game, and got another big inning at the plate to gain an early lead. Smith got things going with a single, and Miller followed suit with an RBI double. Paul Jensen added his RBI single, and Surber followed with an RBI double. And pushing the lead to 6-0, Bernard capped off the first inning of play with a two-run triple. Three more runs were added in the second inning for the North Stars. Miller knocked in a run on an RBI triple, while Paul Jensen added another RBI on a double and Malisani drove in a run on a sacrifice fly. And with the Spurs scoring a run in the third on two hits, Bernard answered right back for the North Stars with an RBI double to take a 10-1 lead. And though the Spurs added another run in the fourth, the North Stars were still looking to end the game early. Paul Jensen singled to start the bottom of the fourth inning, and Kemmer doubled to get the winning run in scoring position. Then with one swing of the bat, Malisani took the lead to 12-2 on an RBI single. All that was left for the North Stars to do was to close out the Spurs in the top of fifth. And with Justin Jensen still on the mound, it wasn’t a problem, earning three outs after facing only four batters. “These are the best two games I have seen us play all year consecutively,” Fanning said. The North Stars had all around good play on Tuesday, and they also took advantage of every opportunity. In the two games, the North Stars reached base after having seven batters hit and on 10 walks. They also reached on two Spur errors, and scored three runs on three Spurs passed balls at home plate. “We need to know when the pitcher isn’t throwing strikes,” Fanning said. “And we need to capitalize on that. It was a good two-game outing for the North Stars at home, but now heading back on the road they are going to need two more strong performances. Today the North Stars are in Great Falls for another conference doubleheader as they gear up to face the Great Falls Stallions at 3 p.m. “We need to get a sweep down there,” Fanning said. “And that’s what we are looking for. That is a team that’s in the bottom of our conference, and they got us once up here so we need to go down there expecting two."