Miners slip past Northstars
It was all within the Havre Northstars' grasp. A pair of wins, a sweep of the doubleheader and the regular season Northern District title were within inches of the Northstars' outstretched hands.
But it all slipped away as the combination of missed plays and missed opportunities proved too much to overcome as the Stars were swept by the conference leading Lethbridge Miners in a doubleheader Tuesday night at Legion Field.
"We didn't execute when we needed to," said head coach Mickey Williams. "We didn't get hits, we made errors and way too many mental mistakes. That's ridiculous for this time of year to make mental mistakes like that."
Havre had chances to not only grab control of, but win, both games of the doubleheader only to have them slip agonizingly away.
In the opening game, the Northstars showed some early resilience. After spotting the Miners four runs in the first inning, Havre tied the game up by adding a run in the second inning and three in the third.
The first run came as Tyson Roe reached on a passed-ball third strike and was later driven in by Cory Junck. In the third, Daine Solomon tripled home Adam Jensen while Dusty Heath added an RBI single.
Havre starter Tyler Thompson shut Lethbridge down after the first inning, holding the Miners hitless over the next four innings.
But in the fifth, Lethbridge got back on the board with a little help from the Northstars.
Thompson surrendered a lead-off double to Ken Mazurek, who later scored when Thompson tried to make a tough throw after fielding a Shaun Sedgewick sacrifice bunt.
Thompson tried to make an off-balance throw on a very good bunt but wound up throwing it over first baseman, Tyson Roe's head. Sedgewick later scored on a double steal to give Lethbridge a 6-4 lead.
The Miners added to their lead in the top of the seventh as they capitalized on a lead-off hit batsman and a dropped fly ball by centerfield Daine Solomon to add three more runs and take a commanding 9-4 lead.
But the Northstars weren't going to go away quietly. A pair of singles by Mark Benjamin and Solomon started off the inning. Heath drove in both with a long triple to right and later scored on Roe's single to cut the lead to 9-7. However, the Northstars rally came up short as Lethbridge brought in reliever Jordan Leavitt, who retired three straight batters to end the game.
Thompson took the loss for the Northstars, going seven innings, allowing 10 hits while five of the nine runs allowed were earned.
Heath led the Northstars offensively, going 2-4 with three RBIs while Solomon added three hits and an RBI. Roe and Cory Junck also drove in runs.
"We didn't play with any emotion," Williams said. "For games this big, we had the opposite reaction we should have. It was a 4-4 game and in the dugout you would have thought we were down 10. It was the complete opposite of the way we played against Fort MacLeod a week ago."
The Northstars had their chances in the nightcap to salvage a split. Lethbridge grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third inning as Sedgewick led off with a single and Cole Balog reached on a Junck throwing error. The two runners were moved over on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a single by Marc LeClair.
After being held to one hit for the first three innings by Balog, Havre bats got going as Solomon led off the bottom of third with a single and promptly stole second. Heath picked up his fourth RBI with a double that scored Solomon. Heath later scored on a single by Tyler Thompson to tie the game at two.
Lethbridge retook the lead in the top of the fifth as Northstar starter Brandon Morse hit Balog with a pitch. Balog later scored on a single from Mazurek.
The Miners added to their lead in the top of the seventh as an error from Ian Spencer and a single by Allen Peters set up a two-run triple by Leclair. Another single by Mazurek scored LeClair giving the Miners a 7-2 lead.
As in the first game, the Northstars tried desperately to rally as Levi Briese led off the bottom of the seventh with a single. After a pair of outs, a two-out single by Mark Benjamin gave Havre runners on the corners. Heath continued his clutch hitting on the day as he drove in both with a single. However, the Northstar rally ended as Roe grounded into a fielder's choice to end the inning.
"We have yet to come back from behind and win a game when we're trailing after the third or fourth inning," Williams said. "That's not a very good sign."
Morse took the loss despite pitching pretty solidly. Of the six Miner runs, only four were earned, and Morse struck out 10 batters while walking one and hitting a batter.
Heath finished 2-4 with three RBIs. For the day, he finished with five hits and seven RBIs.
"Dusty has been probably our most consistent hitter over the last month," Williams said. "He has come back and been a good player and filled the leadership role."
With the wins, Lethbridge is in control atop the Northern District with a 20-3 record. With the losses, Havre falls to 20-6 in the conference and assures itself no better than a second place finish in the standings. Havre is just ahead of Fort MacLeod, which is 20-8 and in third. The Northstars have four games remaining in the regular season against the Great Falls squads. Havre is undefeated against the two squads on the season and Williams hopes to remain that way to ensure a second-place finish in the conference.
"We want to be on the opposite side of the bracket from Lethbridge at the district tournament," Williams said. "We need to regroup and start rolling again. We were playing so well a week ago. We need to get back there. I know we can. I know we're a better team than what we showed against Lethbridge."
Lethbridge Miners 400 002 3 - 9 10 3
Havre Northstars 013 000 3 - 7 11 4
Townsend, Leavitt (7) and McLeod; Tyler Thompson and Adam Jensen. WP - Townsend, LP - Thompson, S - Leavitt.
MINERS - D. Smith 1-3, Balog 0-3, Peters 0-3, LeClair 1-4, Mazurek 4-4 (2 RBI), McLeod 2-4, Troutman 0-2, Sedgewick 0-1, Erickson 0-2, Townsend 1-1, Granburg 1-1, Leavitt 0-4.
NORTHSTARS - Adam Jensen 1-4, Mark Benjamin 2-4, Daine Solomon 3-4 (RBI), Dusty Heath 2-4 (3 RBI), Tyson Roe 1-4 (RBI), Ian Spencer 1-3, Chazz Hurlburt 0-4, Cory Junck 1-4 (RBI), Levi Briese 0-3.
2B - Mazurek, McLeod
3B - Solomon, Heath
HR - none
Lethbridge Miners 002 010 3 - 6 9 1
Havre Northstars 000 200 2 - 4 8 1
Balog and D. Smith; Brandon Morse and Adam Jensen.
MINERS - D. Smith 0-3, Balog 1-2, Leavitt 0-1, LeClair 3-4 (3 RBI), Mazurek 2-3, McLeod 0-4, M. Smith 0-3, Granburg 0-3, Sedgewick 1-3.
NORTHSTARS - Adam Jensen 1-4, Mark Benjamin 1-4, Daine Solomon 1-4, Dusty Heath 2-4 (3 RBI), Tyson Roe 0-3, Ian Spencer 1-2, Tyler Thompson 1-3 (RBI), Levi Briese 1-2, Cory Junck 0-3.
2B - Heath, Spencer
3B - LeClair
HR - none