The Havre North Stars American Legion baseball club had an unscheduled day off Monday. But when Tuesday rolled around, the North Stars found themselves in a pair of tough battles at home.
The visiting Missoula Prospects made life tough on the North Stars Tuesday at Legion Field, but Havre still found a way to earn a hard-fought split at home. The North Stars earned a dramatic 2-1 win in extra innings in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader, but they fell short in the nightcap against the Prospects 5-4.
“The biggest thing I saw today was that our guys really want to win,” Havre head coach Danny Wirtzberger said. “You could see it in their eyes. We didn’t quite win that second game, but these guys are really committed to winning and they played that way today. That’s a big shift in this program, from where we’ve been the last four or five years.”
And Havre used that winning attitude to forge an exciting victory in Tuesday’s opener.
With the game knotted up in the bottom of the eighth inning, Jake Sedahl singled to get the North Stars in business. Then Jeff Miller walked and Chris Vukasin sacrificed the two runners to second and third. That brought Dylan Carpenter to the plate. Carpenter came on in relief in the game, and he helped himself to a win on the mound by delivering a walk-off base hit that scored Sedahl.
Carpenter picked up the win by throwing two innings of scoreless baseball after Vukasin pitched so strong for the first six innings. Carpenter struck out one Prospect and got plenty of help from his defense, while Vukasin allowed just three hits and one run against the hard-hitting prospects.
“Chris pitched well,” Wirtzberger said. “It was only his second start, so he hasn’t had a lot of work this season. And overall, our pitchers did a great job today. Dylan came in and shut them down in the first game, and then he pitched really well in the second game. That would have been pretty neat. But overall, I thought we pitched really well today, against a good Missoula team.”
Runs however, were hard to come by for the North Stars in both games. Havre was shut out in the first four innings of game one, but veteran first baseman David Denny lifted the North Stars to the lead when he smoked a double into the gap, plating Travis Roth. Missoula tied the game in the seventh inning, while Havre missed an opportunity to score in its half of the seventh. Still, the North Stars did enough, including a great 6-1-3 double play of Miller to Sedahl to Denny which ended Missoula’s biggest offensive threat of the contests.
And even though the North Stars didn’t score many runs in the first outing, they did pound the Missoula pitchers. Havre totaled 10 hits with Denny going 3-for-4, Roth going 2-for-2, Sedahl going 2-for-4 and Spencer Ross, Miller and Carpenter adding base hits.
Havre belted out another 10 hits in the second game of the twin bill. But it was the Prospect’s turn for some late-game heroics. Carpenter started the contest and pitched all seven innings, and again he pitched well. But Havre’s defense committed four tough errors, and in the top of the seventh, the Prospects plated what would be the game-winning run, then held Havre scoreless in the bottom half of the inning.
“Tough loss in the second game,” Wirtzberger said. “But I thought we hit much better and we competed. Again, that is what I really liked about today, we competed really hard for a full seven innings in both games.”
Havre had to rally from an early 4-0 deficit as Missoula scored four runs in the top of the second. The North Stars bounced back with two runs in their half of the second, with Michael Loftus and Tyrell Pierce coming around to score on back-to-back hits. The North Stars got closer when Vukasin drove in Pierce in the fifth inning and they tied the game in the sixth when Miller singled, reached second and was drove in on a line drive base hit by Chance Pitkanen. However, the North Stars couldn’t quite hold the lead and had to settle for a tightly contested split.
Denny again led the Havre offense with two hits, but plenty of North Stars found success at the plate. Miller, Ross, Vukasin, Ryne Antley, Pitkanen, Roth, Loftus and Pierce all collected hits.
Now, with Tuesday’s double-dip in the books, Havre will have a day off before hosting the Great Falls Outlaws at 7 p.m. on Thursday night. The North Stars are 14-10 overall and remain 4-2 in conference play.
“We’re playing well right now,” Wirtzberger said. “We have areas we can certainly improve. But we’ve won six of our last eight games, so I think we’re playing really well.”
North Stars 2, Missoula 1 (8 innings)
Missoula 000 001 00 – 1 3 0
Havre 000 010 01 – 2 10 2
WP – Dylan Carpenter, LP – Sprague
Havre's Chris Vukasin throws a pitch during the first of two American Legion baseball games against the Missoula Prospects Tuesday at Legion Field.
Havre Batting – Spencer Ross 1-2, Travis Roth 2-2, David Denny 3-4 (RBI), Ryne Antley 0-3, Jake Sedahl 2-4, Jeff Miller 1-3, Chance Pitkanen 0-2, Chris Vukasin 0-1, Dylan Carpenter 1-4, Tyrell Pierce 0-3.
Missoula 5, North Stars 4
Missoula – 040 000 1 – 5
Havre 020 011 0 – 4 10 4
WP – Linter, LP – Dylan Carpenter
Havre Batting – Spencer Ross 1-3, Chris Vukasin 1-4 (RBI), David Denny 2-4, Ryne Antley 1-3, Jake Sedahl 0-4, Jeff Miller 1-3, Dan Miller 0-2, Chance Pitkanen 1-1 (RBI), Michael Loftus 1-2, Travis Roth 1-1, Tyrell Pierce 1-2.