Going into the 2012 Northern District Tournament, the Havre North Stars American Legion baseball team knew it was going to have to win the whole thing, or at least get to the championship tilt in order to qualify for the Class A state tournament later this week in Great Falls.
That was a tall order considering how tough the tourney was, and the North Stars fell agonizingly short of that feat, losing out to the Medicine Hat Knights on Saturday morning. Havre opened the tournament with a one-run win over Lethbridge on Thursday, then lost to top-seeded and eventual champion Fort MacLeod on Friday evening. And despite a monster performance from Thurman Holdsclaw on Saturday morning, the North Stars came up one run short against the host Knights, losing 8-7 at Athletic Park in Medicine Hat.
Against the Knights, who were the No. 6 seed, Havre fell behind 2-0 in the first inning, but Holdsclaw began what would become the biggest day of his young career by belting a solo home run in the bottom of the first. Eventually, Holdsclaw would add an RBI triple in the third, a single in the fourth and a two-run double in the sixth to hit for the cycle, a very rare accomplishment at any level of baseball.
And with Holdsclaw's heroics at the plate, the North Stars found themselves locked in a nip and tuck battle to keep their season going. Trailing 5-2 in the fourth, Gareth Bernard added an RBI hit to tie the game at 5-5. But the Knights didn’t falter, collecting three runs in the top of the sixth to go ahead 8-5. From there, Justin Jensen came on in relief and held the Knights scoreless the rest of the way, but Havre’s rally in the late innings fell short and the North Stars’ summer came to an end.
Mark Vukasin took the loss in Havre’s final game of the season as Medicine Hat belted out 15 total hits the in the nine-inning game.
Havre out-hit the Knights however, but couldn’t get that one run it needed in the latter innings. The North Stars pounded out 18 hits in the game, including Holdsclaw's four. Tyrell Pierce, who also had a huge tourney at the plate for the North Stars, went 3-for-5 against the Knights with a double and an RBI. Mark Vukasin had a double and an RBI, while Bernard and Brandon Smith also drove in runs for the North Stars.
Havre was dropped into the loser-out bracket by the top-seeded Royals on Friday evening. Fort MacLeod beat the North Stars 9-4 on a solid pitching performance by Troy Wolstenholm and a five-run explosion in the seventh inning.
The North Stars led the Royals 1-0 after four innings, then the teams each scored two runs in the fifth as Havre led 3-2. From there however, the North Stars managed just one more run, while Fort MacLeod’s bats came alive. The Royals scored two in the bottom of the seventh inning to go in front, then tacked on five more in the eighth to put Havre away.
Smith took the loss for Havre, giving up seven earned runs while striking out six Royals/ Havre also gave up two costly runs on a two-run error in the late innings.
Offensively, the North Stars totaled 11 hits to the Royals 14. Pierce went a stellar 3-for-4 with a double, while Holdsclaw was 2-for-5 with two RBI. Bernard also went 2-for-5, while Jensen, Smith, Mark Vukasin and Spencer Ross all added hits and Jensen and Smith each drove in a run.
In the loss to Fort MacLeod, as well as the loss to Medicine Hat, the North Stars played extremely good baseball, but they just had a few breaks go against them.
With the losses to the Royals and Knights, Havre ended the season with a 22-22 overall record, and the North Stars played strong in what is perhaps the toughest district in all of Class A.
Fort MacLeod went on to beat Vauxhall in the championship game on Sunday and will join the Great Falls Electrics at the State A Tournament, which starts Thursday at Centene Field in Great Falls.
Medicine Hat 8, North Stars 7 (lo)
Medicine Hat 201 203 000 – 8 15 2
Havre 102 301 000 – 7 18 3
WP – K. Ellefson, LP – Mark Vukasin
Medicine Hat – L. Aman 1-3, K. Florkowski 3-6, B. Schafer 2-5, J. Logan 2-5, D. Bowyer 1-3, M. Close 1-4, K. Lutz 1-4, I. Hong 2-5, K. Ellefson 2-4, R. McDonnell 0-2, E. Wellford 0-1.
2B – Schafer 2, Florkowski 1, Logan 1, Bowyer 1.
Havre – Justin Jensen 1-4, Thurman Holdsclaw 4-6 (4 RBI), Brandon Smith 3-6 (RBI), Mark Vukasin 2-5 (RBI), Gareth Bernard 2-4 (RBI), Spencer Ross 1-4, David Denny 0-1, Tyrell Pierce 3-5, Chris Vukasin 1-5, Jase Kato 1-3.
2B – Holdsclaw, M. Vukasin, Pierce.
3B – Holdsclaw
HR – Holdsclaw
Fort MacLeod 9, North Stars 4 (QF)
Havre 001 020 001 – 4 11 2
Fort MacLeod 000 020 25x – 9 14 2
WP – T. Wolstenholm, LP – Brandon Smith
S – Jake Hanson
Havre – Justin Jensen 1-4 (RBI), Thurman Holdsclaw 2-5, Brandon Smith 1-4, Mark Vukasin 1-3, Gareth Bernard 2-5 (2 RBI), Spencer Ross 1-3, David Denny 0-4, Tyrell Pierce 3-4 , Chris Vukasin 0-4.
2B – Pierce
Fort MacLeod – T. Wolstenholm 2-5, R. Cook 2-5, J. Hanson 0-4, M. Price 0-4, D. Shepherd 2-5, R. Martens 2-4, J. Foster 3-4, R. Attwood 1-3, A. Kidd 2-3.
2B - Attwood