The Havre Northstars gave starting pitcher Doug Ireland all the help he needed through the seventh inning to finish off the Billings Blue Jays Monday.
The Northstars went into the top of the eighth inning leading 6 to 1. The Northstars allowed Billings four runs in the top of the ninth, but Ireland and his teammates hung on to shut the Blue Jays down to ensure that England got complete the game.
The North Stars collected their six runs on 11 hits to advance to today's afternoon game in the state A American Legion tournament against the Belgrade Bandits in a loser-out game. If they win, they advance to a 7:30 p.m. game against the loser of the Bitterroot Red Sox and Glendive Blue Devils game scheduled for 4 p.m. today.
In going the distance, Ireland gave up five runs three earned and two unearned on seven hits and three errors. He had 12 strikeouts and gave up only two walks in his nine innings of work.
Leading the way at the plate for the Northstars were Steve Heberly and Dusty Heath, who both collected two hits in four at bats. Heath batted in two runs, while Heberly, Dan Wirtzberger and Cory Junck each pushed a run across the plate.
The Northstars still had a shot at the state title entering this afternoon's game, scheduled to begin at 12:30. The Northstars had to win that game, and could then earn a berth in the title game by beating the loser of the Bitterroot-Glendive game.
The first title game is slated for 11 a.m. Wednesday. A second game, if needed, would be played at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. In order to take the title, Havre's nine would have to claim two victories over their opponent in the championship round.