North Stars grew into a very a strong club this summer
The Havre North Stars American Legion baseball team won't be playing at this week's Class A state tournament in but that doesn't mean the North Stars didn't find a measure of success this summer.
Longtime manager Mickey Williams returned to the dugout this season to lead a fairly young North Stars' squad, and under the veteran presence of Williams, the North Stars found their stride at just the right time.
Havre got off to a strong start in early May, winning four games against the Great Falls Stallions to start the season. But like every other spring sport, the North Stars were under the weather gun early, playing in cold, windy conditions, and they saw several games cancelled all together due to bad early weather in May in June.
But by the time the first official days of summer rolled around, the North Stars started to lock in on an exciting season. Havre's North Star Memorial Tournament was a huge success, as the North Stars went 3-2 against very tough Class A competition.
But then came a difficult stretch, as the North Stars endured a tough, eight-game Northern A losing streak. By the time the skid reached the eighth game, Havre was sitting at 3-13 in conference play.
None of that seemed to matter however, and the North Stars, under Williams' tutelage, closed out conference play on an impressive roll. Havre won eight straight league games to get back into the heart of the conference race, and,
overall, the North Stars finished the regular season by winning 13 of their last 14 conference games.
The streak saw Havre climb all the way back to third place in the final Northern A standings — an impressive feat indeed.
Then came last week's district tourney. Havre thrashed rival Lethbridge in the opening round in Great Falls, but two heartbreaking losses kept the North Stars from a chance to compete at the state tournament. First, Fort MacLeod mounted a huge comeback against the North Stars to knock them into loser-out play, then Medicine Hat did the same the next morning, ending Havre's season.
And while the North Stars left Great Falls disappointed, they can certainly reflect on a well-played
2011 campaign. Havre improved in all areas as the season went on, but especially at the plate.
The North Stars bats became very consistent from top to bottom, and while standouts like Brandon Smith, Justin Jensen and Mark Vukasin all had strong showings at the dish in 2011, Havre had many players rise to the occasion. Thurman Holdsclaw and Gareth Bernard both went on big tears this season, and at times, their bats really sparked the North Stars. Kolby Sukut and Colt Young also came into their own at the plate this season, and veteran Justin Denny turned in a consistent season from start to finish. Young players like Spencer Morkird and Chris Vukasin also got into the act, and really helped the North Stars become a strong hitting team by season's end.
Under Williams, Havre also displayed strong defense and smart pitching, and the North Stars ran the bases well. In all, Havre really grew as a team this season, and the last three weeks was indicative of just how far the North Stars came. And while they didn't reach their ultimate goal of making the state tourney, the summer of 2011 was a successful one for the Havre North Stars.