Baseball can be a game of momentum, a game of ups and downs, and on the first day of the 2011 North Star Memorial American Legion Baseball Tournament, the Havre North Stars saw plenty of both.
The North Stars opened play in their annual tournament with a thrilling, walk-off win over the Glasgow Reds on Friday afternoon, but then were silenced by a stellar pitching performance in Friday night’s finale.
In a 4-3, eight-inning win over the Reds, the North Stars got a stellar start from Brandon Smith, then saw Glasgow storm back before some late-game heroics of their own. After coming back to tie the game at 3-3 headed into the bottom of the eighth, the Reds could only watch as Havre’s Colt Young belted a double with one out. Eventually, the North Stars would load the bases and Young would score the winning run on a wild pitch by Glasgow’s Dylan Hughes. The win was part of an outstanding small-ball effort by the North Stars and a great way to get their own tournament started.
“I’m a big believer in small-ball and fundamentals,” Havre head coach Mickey Williams said. “And that is something I thought we did very well this weekend. I thought we executed well in a lot of different situations.”
And Havre did that Friday against Glendive.
Smith struck out five Reds and allowed just one run in five innings of work, and he also got Havre off to a good start at the plate. He singled in the bottom of the second and eventually came around to score on a passed ball. The North Stars added another run in the second on singles by Mark Vukasin and Young and went up 3-1 when Thurman Holsdclaw scored in the fifth inning. But Glasgow clawed back in in the later innings, forcing an extra frame. From there, Justin Jensen, who picked up the win in relief, held the Reds down in the eighth, setting up Havre’s exciting game-winning inning.
Young was outstanding for the plate and at shortstop for the North Stars. Not only did he score the winning run, but he went 3-for-3 at the dish with one RBI. Justin Denny and Matt Hanley also had hits in the close win.
But with Friday afternoon’s dramatics came Havre being on the other side of the coin late Friday night as the North Stars were blanked by the Gallatin Valley Outlaws, 4-0.
Gallatin Valley starter Tanner Johnson threw a complete-game one-hitter against the North Stars and struck out a whopping 11 batters in the process. Havre starter Gareth Bernard did his best to keep pace. Bernard pitched brilliantly, going seven innings, giving up just four runs and striking out nine Outlaws in the loss. Bernard held the Outlaws scoreless through four innings in the pitcher’s dual, but Gallatin Valley pieced together two runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth, and that was more than enough for Johnson, who was almost unhittable Friday night.
Havre’s lone hit came from Smith, who had an outstanding weekend at the plate for the North Stars, who are now 8-5 on the season. Justin Denny also had a big weekend at the plate for Havre, while Jensen led the team in stolen bases from his leadoff position this weekend.
The North Stars will return to district play on Tuesday with a pair of games against the Great Falls Electrics at Don Olson Field in Great Falls.