Without question, a dominating pitching game plays a major role in whether a ball club comes out victorious or not. It can control the game from to start, or can set the tone early, but either way, the Havre North Stars American Legion baseball team was on both ends on Tuesday.
The North Stars hosted the league leading Fort MacLeod Royals on Tuesday in a league double header at Legion Field in Havre. Havre has been playing very well as of late, and proved that again, as they split with the Royals. In game one the North Stars defeated the Royals 9-6, but in the nightcap, the Royals defeated the North Stars 15-7.
In the win, Brandon Smith got the start on the mound and dominated for the majority of the seven innings played. His ability to throw strikes all game long helped push the North Stars into the winners circle, even with moments of adversity caused by the Royals’ offense. Smith pitched all seven innings, facing 33 batters. Smith also started the game by striking out of the first eight batters he faced, and throwing first pitch strikes to nine out of the first 11 batters he faced. On the game, Smith threw a total of 112 pitches, 75 of which for strikes. Smith also threw first pitch strikes to 24 of the 33 batters faced, getting ahead in the count and making the Royals’ batters fight from behind.
Behind the strong appearance, the North Stars jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first, and stretched the gap to 5-0 through three. The North Stars had anther big inning in the fifth and held a 9-0 lead.
But the Royals fought back in the sixth inning, and finally caught up with Smith’s arm. Through the first five innings, Smith had given up just four hits, but in the sixth the Royals put together three more hits, and utilized two Havre errors to post six runs.
That was as close as the score would get however; as the North Stars were able to shut the Royals down in the seventh and grab the win.
And Smith got plenty of help by his offense.
Tyrell Pierce was 3-for-3 with two RBIs, including a beautiful RBI suicide squeeze bunt in the fifth inning that also resulted in a single. Mark Vukasin also went 3-for-4 with an RBI, while Chris Vukasin was 3-for-4 as well. Justin Jensen, Thurman Holdsclaw and Smith all had one hit each, while Holdsclaw also had two stolen bases and scored a couple of runs. Smith had a two RBI triple.
The scenario was a little different in the nightcap, as the Royals then benefited from a hot start due to lights out pitching.
Jake Hanson, who will be pitching for Florida next season, got the start for the Royals. And while Hanson pitched just one inning, his arm set the tone for the rest of the ball game. In the top of the first, the Royals got off to a 3-0 lead. And with Hanson on the mound, the Royals cruised through the bottom half of the inning with three strikeouts. From that point on, the North Stars were playing from behind.
Holding an 8-0 lead, the North Stars did grab four runs in the second inning off of a new pitcher. Gareth Bernard had a double and Jace Kato had a single, giving Jensen the opportunity for the two RBI single. Smith also had an RBI, while Holdsclaw scored on a error throw.
But while Havre Battled, the Royals had an answer. They too scored four more runs in the top of the third, and two more in the fifth. The Royals held a 14-6 lead through five innings, and even added an insurance run in the sixth to take a 15-6 lead. Bernard had an RBI single in the sixth, but 15-7 was as close as the North Stars would get.
Jensen started on the mound for the North Stars, but also had an early exit after just one inning. Havre then split the load between Pierce, Kato and Spencer Ross. The pitching staff gave up 15 hits.
Offensively, the North Stars put together 10 hits, and were led by Spencer Ross, who went 2-for-2. Bernard went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI, while Kato also went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Smith had a double and an RBI, while Jensen also had a hit for an RBI and Kody Kickman had an RBI single as well.
It was an up and down double header for the North Stars, but they had a short turnaround and hit the road again to face Medicine Hate in a double header on Wednesday. But after playing so well the last month, the two games against the Knights weren’t up to their standards either.
Wednesday afternoon the North Stars lost game one 20-10, and fell in game two 4-0, a much closer matchup, but their third straight loss in two days.
Mark Vukasin got the loss in the first game, and just couldn’t get the offensive help to stay competitive. Holdsclaw did go 3-for-4 at the plate for Havre to lead the way. In game two, it was Jensen who pitched, but suffered the loss. The game was much more competitive, but yet again, the runs just weren’t there. This time it was Smith led the way offensively, going 2-for-3 in the nightcap.
The North Sars are now 14-8 in league play. They will be back at home on Monday when they face the Lethbridge Miners in a Northern District doubleheader.
North Stars 9, Fort MacLeod 6
WP – Brandon Smith; LP – Cole Bennett
Havre 203 040 x – 9 14 1
Fort McCloud 000 006 0 – 6 9 2
North Stars - Justin Jensen 1-5 RBI, Thurman Holdsclaw 1-4, Brandon Smith 1-3 2RBI, Mark Vukasin 3-4 RBI, Chris Vukasin 3-4, Gareth Bernard 0-3, David Denny 0-2, Tyrell Pierce 3-3 2RBI, Spencer Ross 0-3.
Royals - Ryan Cook 0-3 2RBI, Ray Martens 1-4, Jake Hanson 1-4, Denny Shepherd 2-3, Josh Foster 0-4, Ryden Attwood 1-4 RBI, Cole Bennett 0-3, Maverick Price 1-2, Aiden Kidd 1-2 RBI
Fort MacLeod 15, Havre 7
WP – Jake Hanson; LP – Justin Jensen
Havre 040 021 0 – 7 10 3
Fort McCloud 354 021 0 – 15 14 3
North Stars – Justin Jensen 1-2 RBI, Brandon Smith 1-3 RBI, Mark Vukasin 0-2, Chris Vukasin 0-1, Gareth Bernard 2-4 RBI, David Denny 0-1, Jace Kato 2-4 RBI, SpencerRoss 2-2, Ned Malone 1-3, Kody Hickman 1-2 RBI, Chance Pitkanan 0-2, Matt Hanley 0-3, Dane Linquist 0-2
Royals - Ryan Cook 3-3, Ray Martens 1-3 RBI, Jake Hanson 3-5 4RBI, Maverick Price 3-4 RBI, Denny Shepherd 3-5 RBI, Josh Foster 0-2 RBI, Ryden Attwood 2-2 2RBI, Cole Bennett 0-2, Aiden Kidd 0-1, Eric Maskowitz 0-2, Ty Odney 0-1, Jack Shephard 0-1.