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Great Falls charges past North Stars in Havre's home debut


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If the newly formed Class AA Great Falls Chargers are supposed to be the best American Legion baseball team in Montana this summer, than the Havre North Stars can feel good about where they're at this spring. On Sunday afternoon at Legion Field in Havre, the North Stars made their home debut, and although they dropped both games of the nonconference doubleheader, the scores didn't reflect how the North Stars played, or pitched. "Overall, I'm happy," Havre head coach Steve Fanning said. "We had a couple of bad innings in the first game, but we improved the second game. We made some mental mistakes out there today, but those are things that will get better with time and more games under our belt. "I thought we pitched really well today, and the scores don't show just how well our pitchers threw the ball today," he added. "Both of these games could have easily been one or two-run ball games, and that's a really good team we just played. Some say the best team in the state this year. So, overall, we can take plenty of positives away from these two games." Havre's bats were silenced by Great Falls' ace A.J. Griffith in a 13-3 gameone loss to the Chargers. Griffith allowed just two runs and struck out 10 North Stars in just under six innings of work. The North Stars got one run in the third inning and one in the sixth, and tacked on one more in the seventh, but overall, they managed just three total hits in the game with Kyle Miller and C.J. Evans coming up with doubles. Miller had two of Havre's three hits in the opening tilt. "That kid (Griffith) is a really good pitcher," Fanning said. "But we helped him a little too. We made some mistakes, swinging at the wrong pitches. Swinging at bad pitches. But what I really liked is we didn't do that in the second game. We were much smarter and more patient at the plate, so that was nice to see." The North Stars got a solid start from Brandon Smith. Despite taking the loss, Smith held a potent Great Falls' lineup, which includes star leadoff man Jake Bleskin, to just five runs on five hits. However, the Chargers exploded for six runs in the seventh inning as reliever Roman Surber tired, and that made the final score more lopsided than it might have been. Still, the young but talented North Stars kept battling on a sunny, but cold day at Legion Field. Havre fell to Great Falls 13-8 in the nightcap, but Fanning again liked what he saw from his team in just their fourth game of the young season. "I was pleased with how we hit the ball and pitched in the second game," Fanning said. "Kyle (Miller) and Justin (Jensen) both pitched really well. And CJ Evans had a great day at the plate for us. So our leaders really led us today. And when these young kids get some more games and experience under their belts, and we start to figure out where to put everyone, I think this team has a lot Of potential. And that potential showed Indeed. The North Stars twice battled back from big deficits. Great Falls jumped out to a 5-2 lead after the first inning, with several runs coming on Havre miscues. The Havre struggles continued in the field, as the Chargers took the lead up to 9-3 after three innings. But the North Star bats didn't go away. A combined four runs in the fourth and fifth innings helped Havre to pull to within 9-7 heading into the top of the sixth inning. The rallies were sparked by Evans, who belted a triple, and Miller who drove in a run on a shot to center field. Smith and Mark Vukasin also got into the act. But as Jensen, who came on in relief of Miller, tired, the Charger bats just wouldn't go away, and they tacked on four runs in the sixth to put the North Stars away for good. "We were right there with them in that second game," Fanning said. "It was just a couple of mistakes in the field and just some mental errors that hurt us. But all of our guys pitched well today, that was the key. And overall, I'm just very happy with how things went." In game two, Miller was 2-for-4 with a run batted in, while Evans stayed hot, going 1-3 with a pair of RBIs. Smith also hit well, going 3-for-3, and Vukasin was 2-for-3 with two RBIs. On the mound, Miller took the loss, but threw well, while Jake Olson picked up the win for the undefeated Chargers. Havre (1-3) is back at home this Sunday to face the Lewistown Redbirds in a pair of seveninning nonconference games.


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