Every baseball season can’t be a winning one. And when dealing with a young team, in what could safely be labeled as a rebuilding season, growth and improvement are among the highest goals set out to accomplish.
Taking a look at what the Havre North Stars American Legion baseball team was able to do in 2013, the growth and improvement was there, but the success didn’t stop there. The North Stars also showed off their potential, proving they could win a few games against standout opponents as well.
"This year was a complete learning session for the entire team,” head coach Danny Wirtzberger said. “We got great production out of our pitchers thanks to Tony Vigliotti, and the bats started to come around with help from Dick Fuzesy."
Lacking depth and with only a handful of veteran players, the North Stars came into the season very young and inexperienced. But as the season progressed, not only did a lot of young players step up their play, but the team got better as a whole. After finishing the regular season with a conference record of 6-16, and as the No. 6 team in the Northern District, the North Stars even made a little noise at the district tournament in Vauxhall. Havre went 1-2 at the postseason tournament and missed out on a trip to state, but did earn a solid 6-3 win over Tri-County.
Thurman Holdsclaw was the key returning player for the North Stars and will be greatly missed from next season’s roster. But veteran depth was shallow across the board, as players like Spencer Ross and David Denny had to carry a big load this season.
The veteran ball players did their part, playing very consistent baseball, but the true growth was seen in the young additions. Players like second-year pitcher Tyrell Pierce quickly grew into the North Stars’ No. 1 pitcher, while shortstop Travis Roth was a standout with his defense and bat as the leadoff hitter for most of the season. Gavin Gunderson was also a huge asset at third base, as well as at the plate, while first-year addition Deion Hammet also solidified his spot in left field by season’s end and Jase Kato really came into his own in 2013.
There was a long stretch of losses to start the season, but as the North Stars began to get on the same page, the potential was there.
When Havre didn’t get off to slow starts, or let the opposition scoring get out of hand with youthful errors, the North Stars looked like a strong program. Once the pitching and defense began to come around, the bats also came around. Being such a young program the North Stars had to play nearly perfect baseball in each of their wins, but doing so, they also proved that there wasn’t a team in the district they couldn’t beat if they put together a solid outing. Throughout the season, the North Stars earned impressive wins over teams like Fort Macleod, Tri-County, Lethbridge, and Great Falls.
Roth was an offensive spark for the North Stars, finishing the season with .449 batting average, and an on-base percentage of .500. Holdsclaw also finished the season with .432 batting average, while Gunderson finished with a .404. Ryne Antley, Chris Vukasin and Denny all finished with a batting average higher than .300 as well, while Roth’s 48 hits also led the club. Holdsclaw had an on-base percentage of .576, and also led the team in the hit by a pitch category with 17.
After the slow start to the season, the North Stars did get on track. Havre finished with an overall record of 15-28-1, and can look forward to seasons' to come if the young talent returns to the diamond next season.
The youth baseball movement in Havre is also growing, and Havre could see several talented players move up to the legion program next season.
"I was pleased with how we finished at districts considering where we started in April,” Wirtzberger said. “It was a great way to send Thurman out as he was our only 18-year-old. He will be missed. But I am already looking forward to next year as we will be returning 16 players, eight starters, and all of our pitching staff."