North Stars getting ready to go
After being stropped in their tracks last season at the Northern district tournament in Great Falls, the Havre North Stars American Legion baseball team is heading into a new season with anxiousness to play, and even higher hopes and goals.
A year ago, the Northstars finished off the season by going 1-3 at districts, missing out on a state birth. They also finished the season just shy of .500 with an overall record of 22-25. But this time around, under first-year head coach Danny Wirtzberger, the
Havre American Legion pitcher Brandon Smith fires towards home plate during a game last summer at Legion Field. The North Stars will open the 2012 season at home against Lewistown on Sunday. They also have a new head coach in veteran Havre athlete Danny Wirtzberger.
North Stars are looking to get back to a dominant position in the Northern district and hopefully rejoin the talented field at the state tournament.
"We are going to build off of our experience," Wirtzberger said. "We have two players in Brandon Smith and Justin Jensen that have been playing Legion ball for five years, and they will provide a lot of good leadership for the rest of the kids. But we also have some more experienced kids like Mark Vukasin and Gareth Bernard, and I am also leaning on them to help lead the team. And with a coaching staff that includes Tony Vigliotti and Dick Fuzesy, they both have tons of coaching and baseball experience between them."
And it should be the strong Havre pitchers that carry most of the load for the North Stars this season.
Smith, Jensen, Bernard and Vukasin will not only give leadership this year, but they will also give the team a huge boost from the mound. They all four have extensive pitching experience and could be just the edge the team needs to climb the ranks. Thurman Holdsclaw has also spent his share of time on the mound and could lend a helping hand, as could newcomers from Babe Ruth, Tyrell Pierce, Dane Linquist and Ned Malone.
"Our pitching is very deep," Wertzberger said. "Especially with all of our older guys being pitchers. And with our young guys, they may not start games, but they should be able to come in as relievers and help the team that way. With our pitching, I really think we should be in the thick of things late in the season. If we treat this season right and stay goal oriented, I hope to see this team at state and it is going to take a lot of hard work, but we hope to get there."
Spencer Morkrid, Chris Vukasin, Jase Kato, David Denny, Chance Pitkanen, Matt Hanley and Kody Hickman make up the rest of the roster, and will look to help the team anyway they can. And with the team hoping to make it to state, they already shown a lot of promise during the last month of practice.
But the Northern District is tough, just as it is every season, and it is going to take a great season for Havre to advance.
The Great Falls Electrics are an early favorite, and have already punched their ticket to state as this year's host team. But the Northstars also have to contend with extremely tough teams like the Fort MacLeod Royals, Vauxhall Spurs, Lethbridge Miners and Medicine Hat Knights.
"It is going to be a tough conference," Wertzberger said. "But our goals are high and we will still strive and reach for them."
The North Stars get their season started on Sunday, with the non conference Lewistown Redbirds coming to Legion Field in Havre for a doubleheader. The first game will start at 1 p.m. and the second should get rolling around 3 p.m., shortly following the end of game one.
A win or loss wont hurt or benefit the Northstars, but it is still important for the Northstars to get on the field and play a worthy opponent. They have been practicing for about a month now, and need to get a solid look at the team before making adjustments moving forward. Playing Lewistown presents the perfect opportunity for the Northstars.
"The best practice in baseball is just playing games," Wertzberger said. "I wanted to schedule early non conference games with teams like Lewistown because they are a great team and are going to give us some tough competition right away. It will be good to play those guys."
Havre Home Schedule
April 15 vs Lewistown DH
May 9 vs GF Stallions 1 9 inn.
May 20 vs GF Electrics DH
May 30 vs GF Stallions 1 9 inn.
June 3 vs Medicine Hat DH
June 29 vs Tri-County DH
July 3 vs Fort MacLeod DH
July 9 vs Lethbridge DH
July 12 vs Vauxhall DH
July 19 Northern A District
at Medicine Hat
July 26 State A Tournament
at Great Falls