The Havre North Stars American Legion baseball team is playing several nonconference games this weekend at a tournament in Glendive. As a matter of fact, the North Stars will be up against some of the top Class A teams in the eastern portion of Montana.
But whatever the outcome this weekend in Glendive, the North Stars have already come a long, long way.
Havre rides an eight-game winning streak into the Glendive tournament, and more importantly, all eight wins were against Northern A opponents. Havre has clawed its way back into the thick of the conference race, and the North Stars have done it through pure grit and determination, and nothing that happens in Glendive this weekend will likely change the roll the North Stars are on.
In fact, if anything, games against the likes of Glendive and Sidney should only help the North Stars as they approach the postseason.
And as the postseason draws near, the run the North Stars are on has been truly remarkable. It was just 10 days ago that Havre was mired in a nine-game losing streak. The North Stars had slipped to 3-13 in conference play and had fallen to second-to-last in the Northern District standings.
Fast forward 10 days and Havre is 11-13 in conference play and has climbed all the way back to fourth place in the league standings with four home conference games left in the regular season.
Havre’s current streak is a testament to head coach Mickey Williams, his patience and his ability to bring a young team along, to mold them into the kind of team which is capable of winning ball games. And that’s in spite of a limited number of reserves, a pitching staff which generally has to go the distance in each start, and a team which lacks the kind of veteran power hitters which some of the top teams in Class A baseball possess.
But this win streak is also about the North Star players. It may have taken some time, but Havre has found its stride in the batter’s box. Williams preaches fundamental offense, patience at the plate and tactical “small-ball” hitting. And these North Stars are starting to reap the benefits of that approach to offense.
Havre can certainly manufacture runs with a speedy and consistent 1-2 punch at the top of the order in Justin Jensen and Thurman Holdsclaw. And the North Stars aren’t without pop in the middle of the order as Brandon Smith is one of the leaders in RBIs and extra-base hits in the Northern A, while Garreth Bernard has blasted two homeruns in his last three games.
But it’s the consistency that is really propelling the North Stars to score more runs. Justin Denny generally bats near the bottom of the Havre lineup, but he’s one of the North Star’s top hitters for average. Kolby Sukut, Colt Young and Mark Vukasin are also extremely reliable at the plate, as has been lefty Spencer Morkrid.
And it’s been that kind of top-to-bottom consistency at the plate, combined with a defense that has committed just five errors during the current winning streak, and a gutsy performance by Havre’s pitchers which has propelled the North Stars on this run, as well as given them a new outlook on the upcoming postseason.
But perhaps even more important than all of that is the obvious fun the North Stars are having. Baseball is a grind and it’s never fun when the scoreboard doesn’t go your way day-after-day. And since the scoreboard is going Havre’s way right now, the North Stars are certainly having plenty of fun in the sun.
And that’s what baseball is all about. Playing the game the right way, having a passion for it each day one arrives at the park, and most of all, having fun doing it. And during the last eight games, the North Stars have certainly displayed all of that, and it’s been a fun ride to watch.