Electrics zap North Stars, twice
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The highly-anticipated baseball showdown between perhaps two of the top teams in the American Legion Class A's Northern District turned out to be a bumpy ride for the Havre North Stars.
On Monday afternoon at Legion Field, the North Stars were swept by the Great Falls Electrics, solidifying Great Falls as the top team in the league standings in the process.
Pitching wasn't Havre's issue in its two losses on Monday, and at times, neither was hitting. Instead, it was defense and a failure to move runners across the plate which hurt Havre in both losses.
The North Stars committed nine errors in 14 innings on Monday and also left 11 runners on base.
"Both pitchers, Roman (Surber) and Brandon (Smith) pitched well enough to win these games," Havre head coach Steve Fanning said. "We got good pitching today. But our defense just wasn't there. We were way too inconsistent defensively, and this (Great Falls) is a good, solid club who doesn't make those kinds of mistakes. And we made too many mistakes, especially defensively and it cost us."
In the first game of the twin bill — a 9-3 Electrics win, Surber cruised through the first two innings on the mound, but the Electrics got to him in the top of the third. They pushed four runs across on three walks and three hits and three of Havre's six errors to lead 4-0 early on. They upped that lead to 6-0 by the end of their half of the fourth inning, before the North Stars finally got on the board.
Havre scored three times in the bottom of fourth on five straight base hits. Kyle Miller, Smith, CJ Evans, Shane Kemmer and Mark Vukasin, all singled, respectively to get Havre back in the game.
And with Surber pitching well, the North Stars had chances. The Electrics tacked on three runs in their half of the sixth, but Havre tried to rally down 9-3.
Miller, Smith and Kemmer all singled in the sixth inning, but all were stranded and the North Stars went down 1-2-3 in the seventh.
In the first game, Surber went the distance, striking out nine and walking just four for the North Stars. Havre also belted out 10 hits, but left four runners in scoring position and committed six errors.
"We hit the ball well in the first game, but we didn't get timely hits," Fanning said. "And two bad innings in the field really cost us."
Kemmer, who returned to the Havre lineup for the first time this season, was a perfect 3-for-3 in game one and had four hits overall on the day. Miller and Smith both went 2-for-3 for the North Stars and Evans had the only two RBIs.
The second game of the doubleheader, a 7-5 Electrics victory, was eerily similar to the first.
Smith took a complete-game loss, but pitched extremely well, allowing just eight hits, striking out six and walking just three. He struck out the side in the first inning, but the Electrics got to the North Stars in the second, again jumping out to a 4-0 lead.
Havre answered with back-to-back singles and stolen bases by Evans and Kemmer in the second, eventually making the score 4-1.
The Electrics eventually led 7-2 after six innings, but in the second outing, Havre did manage to mount a lategame charge.
In their half of the seventh, the North Stars scored three runs, starting with a Miller triple to right-center field which plated Justin Denny who led off the inning with his second single of the game, as well as Justin Jensen. Miller came around to score on an Evans single, but that's as far as the Havre rally would get.
Offensively, the North Stars out-hit the Electrics 10-8 in the second game, but they left seven runners in scoring position, and Great Falls' starter Tyson Patterson struck out 13 Havre hitters on the day. Evans led the way going 3-for-4 for the North Stars, while Smith helped his own cause by going 2-for-4.
Miller tripled and Denny was 2-for-2 off the bench.
"Again, we pitched well, but we had a couple of bad innings defensively and we couldn't bring runners in when we had chances. We got a lot of hits today, but we just couldn't get the timely hits when we needed them.
"Right now, we're coming to the realization that we're just not an offensive powerhouse," he added. "So because of that, we have to be solid defensively every game out. We have to pitch and play defense and right now, we're too inconsistent with that. So we're going to have to improve the next few weeks."
With the two losses on Monday, the North Stars fell to 7-7 in district play and 16-17 overall.
Havre has four more games before the holiday break. The North Stars play at the Great Falls Stallions on Wednesday, then host the Tri-County Cardinals on Thursday