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North Stars face tough road games

Just finishing 15 games in only eight days, it was almost expected that the Havre North Stars American Legion baseball team would start to show signs of exhaustion. And after a rough stretch, a five game weekend in Gallatin Valley, those signs did pop up.

Playing at the Gallatin Valley tournament Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the North Stars faced Lewistown, Gallatin Valley, Bitterroot, Deer Lodge and Glendive in five non-league games. Each game was a challenging one for the North Stars as they finished the weekend 1-4. Friday, Havre lost to Lewistown 19-3 and lost to Gallatin Valley 9-0. On Saturday Havre lost to Bitterroot 6-0, but did defeat Deer Lodge 5-3. And on Sunday, Glendive handed the North Stars a 10-3 loss to wrap up the weekend.

"All five teams we faced are state competitors," North Stars' head coach Danny Wirtzberger said. "And I was glad to get to see where we are at, and one of our goals for the weekend was to find another pitcher who could win for us and we found that.

"Another goal of ours was to develop our young players," Wirtzberger added. "I was super excited to see our 16 year olds played this weekend. They averaged about over .500 on base average, and I was really happy with that."

In the win over Deer Lodge, Mark Vukasin really stepped up and pitched a solid game for the North Stars. Coach Wirtzberger was looking for another pitcher to step up this weekend, outside of Brandon Smith and Justin Jensen, and Vukasin showed he has what it takes to help lead the North Stars.

Vukasin also had a decent game offensively, going 2-for-3 with two RBIs in the game. Spencer Ross and Cody Hickman also went 2-for-3 each, while Ross also scored two runs. David Denny also grabbed a hit, going 1-for-1.

Jensen pitched the first game of the weekend, but didn't last long pitching on a short turnaround. The Lewistown Redbirds are also one of the top teams the North Stars will face this season, and have suffered just a small handful of losses. Thee offense wasn't too active either, as Ross led the way going 2-for-2 and Chris Vukasin went 2-for-3 with an RBI.

The 9-0 loss to Gallatin Valley was also a tough one, as Smith also pitched after a short turnaround. Thurman Holdsclaw went 2-for-3 and Mark Vukasin went 2-for-2. Tyrell Pierce continues to grow with the North Stars in his first season, and went 1-for-2.

Losing to Bitteroot and Glendive was also tough on the North Stars this weekend. They combined for a total of three runs and gave up a total of 16 runs in the two losses. Chris Vukasin suffered the loss on the mound against Bitterroot, while Pierce suffered the loss against Glendive.

Facing Bitterroot the young players stepped up. Pierce, Ned Malone and Jace Kato all went 2-for-3 at the plate. And against Glendive, Mark Vukasin highlighted the offense going 2-for-2 with two RBIs.

"There are things behind the scenes that people aren't seeing," Wirtzberger said. "The kids travel well and are good kids and good kids to be around. We are working hard and will get there someday, but just aren't there yet."

The North Stars are back at it with four Northern District games this week. Havre travels to Medicine Hat on Wednesday and Vauxhall on Thursday. Both days are doubleheaders for the North Stars, who return home to face Tri-County on June 29.


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