After a great start to the postseason, the Havre North Stars American Legion baseball team’s run at a division title was halted.
The Northern District tournament ran Thursday through Sunday in Great Falls, where Havre played three games. But after opening the tournament with an 11-1 win over Lethbridge on Thursday, the No. 3 seed North Stars got an early exit with two straight losses.
Friday, Fort MacLeod defeated the North Stars 12-10, and Saturday the Medicine Hat Knights defeated the North Stars 11-10 in loser out action.
The loss to Fort MacLeod was an offensive battle the North Stars just weren’t able to win.
After locking up at 1-1 in the first inning, the North Stars took a 3-1 lead after two. But the Royals came back and took a 4-3 lead in the third before Havre answered once again, this time with six runs in the fourth to take a 9-5 lead after four innings were in the books.
But the Royals weren’t backing down early, and two key runs late in the ballgame ensured their victory. After five innings of play the contest was tied at 10-10, and after a scoreless sixth, it looked like the game had changed. But the Royals added two more runs in the seventh and shut out the North stars in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings to take the second round win.
Pitcher Jake Hansen was key for the Royals win. Hansen, a 30th round pick in last month's MLB draft came on in relief and shut down the North Stars. Hansen pitched just four innings and struck out 10 of the 12 Havre batters he faced. Justin Jensen was on the mound for Havre and suffered the tough loss.
Offensively, Brandon Smith, Gareth Bernard and Kolby Sukut, who all went 2-of-5, led the North Stars. Smith and Sukut both had two RBIs each, while Bernard had one. Colt Young also had two RBIs, going 1-of-4, while Jensen and Thurman Holdsclaw also had one RBI each. Holdsclaw had one hit, while Mark Vukasin and Chris Vukasin also had one hit each.
Saturday’s loss to the Knights didn’t go much better for the North Stars, this time losing after holding a 10-2 lead after six innings were in the books.
The Knights never gave up, and maybe an unfamiliar nine inning game hurt the young North Stars, as the Knights scored seven runs in the seventh and one in the ninth to take the win away from Havre.
Sukut got the start on the mound for the North Stars and looked solid early in his six inning of work. He only gave up two walks, but gave up 10 hits with no strikeouts. The Knights began to hit Sukut in the seventh and eventually forced a pitching change after taking Sukut for eight runs over the six-inning span.
Mark Vukasin and Smith came on in relief and allowed a combined three runs.
Jose Calderon was on the mound for the Knights and gave up 10 runs on six hits to the North Stars in three innings. But Kurtis Cridland came on in relief and gave up just three hits and no runs in his five innings on the hill.
Smith and Mark Vukasin both went 2-of-4 for the North Stars, with Smith earning two RBIs and Vukasin earning one. Jensen, Sukut, Bernard, Justin Denny and Spencer Morkrid also had one hit each, with Sukut grabbing two RBIs as well. Denny, Jensen and Holdsclaw also had one RBI each.
It was a tough tournament for the North Stars after getting off to a solid start. And while young and inexperienced, the North Star's offense was as productive as they have been all season long. In three games the North Stars scored 31 runs, but were stopped stone cold by two very tough bullpens.
On the season the North Stars finished just under .500 with a final record of 22-25 overall.
Fort Macleod 12, North Stars 10
Havre 120 610 000 – 10 10 4
Fort Macleod 103 150 20x – 12 17 5
WP – Jake Hansen; LP – Justin Jensen
Havre – Justin Jensen 0-3 RBI , Thurman Holdsclaw 1-5 RBI, Branden Smith 2-5 2RBIs, Kolby Sukut 2-5 2RBIs, Gareth Bernard 2-5 RBI, Colt young 1-4 2RBIs, Mark Vukasin 1-4 RBI, Justin Denny 0-4, Chris Vukasin 1-5
Fort Macleod – Taylor Wolstenholme 1-5 RBI, Maverick Price 4-5 2RBIs, Haden Shackel 4-5 3RBIs, Jake Hansen 3-5 2RBIs, Luc Lavorato 1-5, Ryan Cook 1-5, Blair Goodreau 0-4 RBI, Tyler Ammann 2-5 RBI, Cole Bennett 1-5 RBI
Medicine Hat 11, North Stars 10
Medicine Hat 100 020 701 – 11 13 6
Havre 031 600 000 – 10 9 3
Medicine Hat – Brad Paradis 1-4, Gaige Becic 1-3 RBI, Austin Schibler 1-3, John Weiss 1-5 2RBIs, Jose Calderon 1-5 2RBIs, Cayden Rayner 3-6 RBI, Carsten Savage 1-1, Kyle Florkowski 1-3, Kurtis Cridland 1-4, Walker Dillman 2-4
Havre – Justin Jensen 1-5 RBI, Thurman Holdsclaw 0-2 RBI, Branden Smith 2-4 2RBIs, Kolby Sukut 1-5 2RBIs, Gareth Bernard 1-4, Colt Young 0-4, Mark Vukasin 2-4 RBI, Justin Denny 1-3 RBI, Spencer Morkrid 1-3, Chris Vukasin 0-1