Havre finishes tournament 4-0; Boyce wins duel against Sukut
By Jason Shoot
Havre Northstars head coach Mickey Williams has been frustrated at times with his team this season because of his players' knack for playing up for strong opponents and down for lesser opponents.
But after this past weekend's Havre American Legion Baseball Tournament, the hard-to-please Williams was all smiles.
Havre went undefeated through four games each of which demanded something special from the Northstars in order to earn a victory.
Whether it was coming back from an early deficit, getting timely hitting against high-caliber pitchers or overwhelming the opposition with dazzling pitching of their own, the Northstars brought a game to the table no opponent had an answer for.
Havre played twice Friday, rallying from an early 5-2 deficit to beat Dillon 7-6 in a dramatic nine-inning game and then subsequently turning around to rout Williston, N.D., 11-3 in five innings.
In a highly-anticipated matchup featuring two of Montana's top pitchers Havre's Jared Boyce and Glendive's Brent Sukut the Northstars erupted for eight runs in the seventh inning to pull away for a 13-4 win.
Eric Lipp then gave Havre another stellar performance from the mound with a two-hitter and 10 strikeouts to pace the Northstars' 12-1 over Glasgow in the final game of the tournament on Sunday.
Williams, to say the least, was thrilled with the way his team performed during the three-day tournament.
"Wow, quite a performance for us," he said. "We only had a couple mental errors, but other than that we came from behind in two games, and then we got blow outs in the other two. It was a great tournament for us."
HAVRE 7, DILLON 6 Havre's Kyle Sheppard suffered through a tumultuous second inning, but he later made amends for himself and his team in a big way.
Sheppard gave up five runs in the second inning, including a two-run homer, but sparked Havre's come back with the game-tying and game-winning RBI for the Northstars.
After Dillon scored a run in the bottom of the sixth to take a 6-4 lead, Boyce cut the Cubs' lead to just one with an RBI single to score Kevin Jurenka.
Sheppard, who finished the game 4-for-5, then followed with an RBI single to left field to drive in Danny Wirtzberger, knot the score at 6-all and send the game to extra innings.
In the ninth, two batters after Wirtzberger led off the inning by reaching base on an error, Sheppard smashed a double into the gap in right-center field to drive in his teammate and give the Northstars a 7-6 lead.
Sheppard then retired the Cubs in the bottom half of the inning to preserve the lead and finalize his complete game.
"I keep forgetting they want to win as badly as I do," Williams said of his team. "It was a fun game to win after trying to give it away."
HAVRE 11, WILLISTON, N.D. 3 The Northstars scored six runs in the fourth inning to blow open a close game and pull away for the five-inning win.
Williston, after closing within 2-1 in the top half of the inning, self-destructed in the bottom of the fourth, committing five errors and allowing five hits as Havre sent 11 batters to the plate in the inning.
Boyce was 2-for-4 with two RBI and three runs scored, Garrett Hanson was 2-for-3 with two RBI, and David Knight, who hurled a complete game, also had two hits.
HAVRE 13, GLENDIVE 4 The pitching duel between Boyce and Sukut was as advertised for six innings as both pitchers effectively held opposing lineups at bay.
But when Glendive manager Tison Anderson yanked Sukut prior to the start of the seventh inning and his team behind 5-4, the move spelled imminent doom for his team.
Havre lambasted reliever Casey Rilley for six runs, sending eight batters to the plate before Anderson mercifully pulled the Blue Devil pitcher after he was able to record just two outs.
Havre then beat up on Brett Murphy for three hits and two more runs before finishing the inning ahead 12-4.
Boyce pitched seven inning, striking out nine, walking none and giving up five hits. Two of the four runs against him were unearned.
Sukut was unhittable at times, striking out the side in the second, fourth and sixth innings en route to 13 strikeouts overall. He walked four and gave up five hits.
Williams gave credit to Boyce, but he saved several compliments for Wirtzberger, who reached base on four of his five trips to the plate from the leadoff spot.
"He made Sukut throw a lot of pitches, probably between 25 and 30 pitches," Williams said, adding Jordan Anderson was a clutch performer in the No. 2 hole with three base hits and two RBI. "I can't say enough for Danny. He played great."
Wirtzberger said he was trying to be aggressive and set the table for the sluggers down the lineup.
"I just try to get on base any way I can," he said. "Then I look for Sheppard to get me in."
Boyce, who is headed to Holland this week to compete in an all-star tournament, said it was a "definite relief" to see Sukut exit the game after the sixth inning.
"The kid's good," Boyce said. "You just gotta say (it was a relief). All you try to do is go up and hit the ball."
HAVRE 12, GLASGOW 1 Lipp was dazzling on the mound for the Northstars, notching 10 strikeouts and giving up just two hits in the five-inning rout.
"I can't ask for any more from him," Williams said. "It was a great performance."
Boyce and Sheppard garner well-deserved attention for their exploits on the field, but Williams said Lipp and the rest of the pitching staff certainly deserve acclaim.
"He's not like a No. 3 or 4 pitcher on this team," Williams said. "I don't have any No. 3 or 4 pitchers. It's more like I have four No. 1s and maybe a 2. You've got to have four solid starters, and I'm fortunate to have five."
Sheppard was 2-for-2 with two RBI and three runs scored, Mike Kellam was 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored, Knight was 2-for-3 with an RBI and run scored, and Jared Boyce added two RBI and two runs for Havre.
Lipp, who allowed just two hits, wasn't overpowering opposing batters with a blistering fastball, but instead changed speeds with his pitches and painted the corners of the plate.
"I was just trying to hit my spots," he said. "I have to rely on control, hit the corners throwing my curve ball."