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The postseason is here for the Northstars

Havre opens Northern A District play Thursday against Lethbridge

 

Colin Thompson

Havre's Jake Sedahl swings at a pitch during a recent American Legion baseball game against the Lethbridge Miners in Havre. The Northstars open the 2018 Northern A District Tournament with a rematch against the Miners Thursday in Conrad. The top two teams from the Northern A advance to next week's Class A Montana/Alberta American Legion State Tournament in Miles City. The district tourney runs through Sunday afternoon in Conrad.

The Havre Northstars American Legion club team has been playing some up and down baseball as of late. But as of last Thursday, it doesn't matter because last Thursday against Lethbridge was the end of the regular season.

And in the postseason, which for the Northstars is the Northern A District tournament, records don't matter. The only thing that does is finishing among the top two teams at the four-day tournament in Conrad because the teams that do that will advance to state, and that's something the Northstars haven't done in more than a decade. Their quest to advance to the Legion State A Tournament starts Thursday at 8 a.m. against Lethbridge.

"The district is more wide open than it's been," Northstars head coach Mickey Williams said. "It's going to come down to pitching and defense. That is what wins games. The teams that don't make mistakes are going to win, especially in tournament baseball."

If the Northstars are going to have a chance at advancing past the district tournament, they will need to play their way out of the recent slump they have been in. After starting the district season 8-4, the Northstars have dropped 10 of their last 14 games and come in have lost three straight and six of the their last eight.

When it comes to Lethbridge, the Northstars have had some success, splitting with the Miners back on July 1 in Havre, winning 10-9 and also losing 9-7. However, last Thursday, with district seeding on the line, the Miners swept Havre in consecutive games by the scores of 10-9 and 10-6.

Yet, the regular season and the district tournament are two very different things, and a big plus for the Northstars coming into this weekend is the depth of their pitching staff. Brendan Garden will be the likely game-one starter against Lethbridge, after posting a 6-3 record in the regular season long with an ERA of 3.90, best on the team. However, Garden isn't the only quality starter available to Williams. Brenden Danielson is another quality starting pitcher, who went 2-4 this season with a 5.01 ERA.

Tony Antley, who is also a regular in the outfield for Havre, along with Danielson, is another option after putting together a 3-2 mark during the season and a 4.3 ERA, which is second on the team. Kennedy McKay, who also plays second base, is another option. He went 3-2 during the season and led the Northstars in strikeouts with 34 in 30 innings pitched.

After allowing Lethbridge to score 10 runs in three of the four previous meetings, a strong effort on the mound will be needed from Garden or whoever gets the ball, but the defense behind him will also be important.

"We can't give away bases and runs," Williams said. "We have done that too much this season. If we can avoid that, we will have a good shot."

Of course, the Northstars can't just rely on their defense to win their games, the offense will need to hold up its end of the bargain, which has been a struggle of late. In its last seven games, Havre is scoring just 3.7 runs. To turn that around, the Northstars will need seniors like Sedahl, Danielson, McKay and Trey Murphy to lead the way. Sedahl is leading the way with an average of .446 and 48 RBIs, both team highs.

The next best batting average is held by Austin Delarosa at .388, but a number of others hit better than .300 this season and some of them included Murphy, Danielson, Garden, Ethan Roberts, Antley, McKay, Caleb Allestad and Tyrell Kjersem.

If the Northstars are successful against Lethbridge Thursday, they will advance to play the winner of Great Falls and Lewistown Friday night at 7. Second-seeded Lewistown is among the favorites, along with top-seeded Vauxhall, who plays Medicine Hat Thursday. The other opening-round game features Tri-County and Fort MacLeod. The top two teams will advance to the state tournament and the championship game is set for Sunday in Conrad. The first pitch will go out at 2 p.m.

 

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