The Havre American Legion North Stars always house a difficult schedule. But playing in the Billings tournament over the weekend, the North Stars excelled in what may be one of the, if not the toughest weekend of the regular season.
Thursday through Sunday the North Stars were in Billings, and played a total of five games. And while the North Stars also suffered a couple of big losses, they also managed to battle back and finish as the tournaments third place team.
“Even though we got beat pretty bad a couple of times by Billings teams,” North Star head coach Danny Wirtzberger said. “It was a step forward for our team.”
Havre managed to go 1-1 in their two games on Friday.
Facing Gillette Wyo., the North Stars rebounded with a 12-0 win. Brandon Smith was on the mound and threw five impressive and dominating innings for the complete game on the mound. But Smith also got a good amount of support from the offense, as Thurman Holdsclaw continued to have a good season and went 2-for-2. Chris Vukasin and Spencer Morkrid also stepped up, Vukasin grabbing three RBIs and Morkrid grabbing two RBIs.
Also on Friday, the North Stars weren’t as fortunate, as they suffered a 13-5 loss to the Billings Blue Jays. This time it was Mark Vukasin on the mound and getting the loss for Havre, in a game where they were just outplayed. Smith highlighted the offensive efforts by scoring two runs and earning two RBIs.
Havre’s first game on Saturday was a must win. The North Stars were set on getting into the championship bracket and Bozeman stood in the way. But the North Stars rebounded after a tough loss yet again, this time winning 9-2 and ensuring a spot in the semifinals. Justin Jensen had another standout game on the mound and pitched the complete seven innings. And when the pitching is strong, so are the bats. Jensen and Holdsclaw both went 2-for-4, and Smith went 2-for-3.
“That was a big win," Wirtzberger said. “It was important to get into that championship round and that was our goal. And we were the only team out of the Northern Conference to make that championship bracket.”
In the semifinal game Sunday, the North Stars ran into the extremely tough Cardinals for the second time. After the 14 run-loss on Thursday, the Cardinals defeated the North Stars 18-0 on Saturday. But despite the loss, being able to go 2-3 on the weekend, the North Stars managed to return home with a third place finish.
Against the Cardinals, Havre’s David Denny suffered the loss. But offensively, Chris Vukasin, Matt Hanley and Morkrid all went 1-for-1.
“It was a pretty prestigious tournament,” Wirtzberger said. “So we were pretty excited to achieve third place. Baseball lives in Billings, and we only lost to Billings teams, so we ended up having a good weekend.”