The Havre North Stars American Legion baseball club has had some really good stretches of play this summer. But the four straight games they have played against the Lethbridge Miners must have seemed like a nightmare.
After being swept by the Miners last week in Lethbridge, Havre returned home for a Northern District rematch with the Miners Sunday night at Legion Field. But even on their home diamond, it was more of the same for the North Stars. The Miners shut out Havre 9-0 in game one of the twin bill, then Lethbridge held Havre off, 6-3, in the nightcap.
“We played a very good team today,” Havre head coach Danny Wirtzberger said. “They are playing well right now. They played two strong games at Tri-County yesterday, then came up here and were again very mentally tough, and they got two more wins. All the credit goes to Lethbridge, they are playing really well right now.”
After being shut out in the opener, Havre was struggling again in game two, but the North Stars showed some life and some fight late. Down 5-0 in the bottom of the fifth, Chris Vukasin, Dylan Carpenter and Gavin Gunderson all reached base safely. That brought up Havre’s leading hitter, Travis Roth, who’s currently batting over .400 for the season and leads the North Stars in RBIs. And Roth delivered, smacking a ball to the right-center gap, and plating three runs. Havre was back in the contest, but eventually, the North Stars would leave the bases full, and couldn’t score any more runs in the final two innings.
In all, Havre managed just five hits against two different Lethbridge pitchers, while four North Star errors were costly in what was a tight ballgame. Jeff Miller pitched all seven innings for Havre, allowing nine hits while striking out five. Miller got plenty of outs, but four early runs by the Miners made Havre play catchup from the start.
At the plate, Havre got two hits from Roth, while Miller, Vukasin and Ryne Antley also collected one hit each.
“Biggest thing today is, they (Miners) didn’t have any errors and we did,” Wirtzberger said. “When we get rolling, we’re putting the ball in play and putting pressure on their defense. But we didn’t do enough of that today, and on the flip side, Lethbridge put a lot of ball in play.”
Havre really struggled to put the ball in play in the shutout loss in game one.
The North Stars scraped together just three hits against Lethbridge starter Wyatt Tomalty, who threw a complete-game shutout, striking out 10 North Stars and only allowing one runner to reach scoring position. Roth, Miller and Gunderson had Havre’s lone three hits.
Meanwhile, Lethbridge hounded Havre starter Tyrell Pierce, who is nursing a strained hamstring, early on. The Miners belted out 12 hits and forced Havre into three errors. They scored two in the first inning, two more in the third, fourth and fifth innings, respectively, and tacked on an insurance run in the seventh as well.
Individually, Lethbridge cleanup hitter Jordyn Johnston was a one-man wrecking crew. He had three stand-up triples, went 4-for-4 on the day and drove in four runs. In all, Lethbridge had 23 total bases in the game against Pierce and Vukasin, who came on in relief in the fourth inning.
With two more losses against the Miners, Havre fell to 7-7 in conference play, and the North Stars have six more conference games this week, including their final homestand of the season. Havre travels to Great Falls for a pair of games against the Great Falls Electrics Tuesday before returning home to host Vauxhall Wednesday and Fort MacLeod Thursday.
“I wish we were 11-3 instead of 7-7 right now,” Wirtzberger said. “That’s what we would be if we had swept Lethbridge. But that didn’t happen, they turned the tables on us. So for this week, we’re really going to work on ourselves. We probably can’t chase down the top spot in the conference anymore, so we are just going to focus on each of these conference games this week as an opportunity to get better. That’s what we want to do. Get better each day.”
Lethbridge 9, North Stars 0
Lethbridge 202 220 1 – 9 12 0
Havre 000 000 0 – 0 3 3
WP – Wyatt Tomalty, LP – Tyrell Pierce
Lethbridge – Tevin Hall 0-4, Dylan Tomiyama 0-3, Kale Penner 1-4, Jordyn Johnston 4-4, Torrin Vaselenak 1-4, Raleigh Ferby 2-4, Kyle Bloor 2-3, Zac Aos 1-2, Chase Carpenter 1-3.
Havre – Travis Roth 1-3, Spencer Ross 0-0, Michael Loftus 0-1, Jake Sedahl 0-3, David Denny 0-1, Chance Pitkanen 0-2, Jeff Miller 1-3, Chris Vukasin 0-2, Ryne Antley 0-3, Dylan Carpenter 0-3, Gavin Gunderson 1-3.
Havre third baseman Gavin Gunderson takes a swing during the North Stars' American Legion baseball doubleheader with the Lethbridge Minors Sunday at Legion Field. The Minors beat the North Stars twice on Sunday night. Havre closes out the home portion of its schedule with doubleheaders against Vauxhall Wednesday and Fort MacLeod Thursday.
Lethbridge 6, North Stars 3
Lethbridge 020 211 0 – 6 9 0
Havre 000 030 0 – 3 5 4
WP – Dylan Tomiyama, LP – Jeff Miller
Lethbridge – Tevin Hall 1-4, Kale Penner 1-3, Jordyn Johnston 0-1, Torrin Vaselanek 2-4, Josh Luchanski 0-2, Raleigh Ferby 2-4, Kyle Bloor 1-4, Jay Kotkas 1-4, Wyatt Tomalty 0-4, Chase Carpenter 0-4.
Havre – Travis Roth 2-4 (3 RBI), Spencer Ross 0-3, Jake Sedahl 0-3, David Denny 0-4, Jeff Miller 1-3, Chris Vukasin 1-2, Ryne Antley 1-3, Dylan Carpenter 0-1, Chance Pitkanen 0-0, Gavin Gunderson 0-2.