Northstars take on Redbirds in a twilight double dip

 

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Hunter Lovenguth and the Havre Northstars American Legion baseball club play host to the Lewistown Redbirds in a Northern A doubleheader tonight at Legion Field.

The Havre Northstars American Legion baseball team spent last weekend playing baseball in Lewistown, only they didn't take on the Redbirds, the team from Lewistown.

That's because Havre was in Lewistown for a non-district tournament in which the Northstars finished fourth. Tonight, Havre and Lewistown will be in the same town again and this time, they will go head-to-head as the two teams will meet in an important Northern A doubleheader tonight at Legion Field. The first pitch will go out at 5.

While this will be the first district meeting between Havre and Lewistown this season, the two teams did meet in a non-district game at the start of the season that the Redbirds won easily 16-6. Yet, the Northstars (13-8, 5-3) have been playing well of late, winning seven of their last 11 games.

"They have a good mix of youth and experience and are very well coached," Northstars head coach Patch Wirtzberger said. "Their hitters are very disciplined and their pitchers are going to throw strikes. They are not going to beat themselves or give the game away."


Tony Antley was the starter in the first meeting against the Redbirds, a 16-6 loss and he could be one of the starters used by Wirtzberger tonight. Wirtzberger said he was unsure if Antley (4-0, 6.97 ERA), Tyrel Kjsersem (2-1, 7.8 ERA) and Austin Delarosa (1-0, 8.14 ERA) are all options to start alongside Kennedy McKay, who will start one of the two games. McKay is 2-0 in four starts and leads the Northstars with an ERA of 3.50, as well as leading all starters in strikeouts (1.2 per inning) and opponents batting average (.200).

"I know Kennedy will go (tonight)," Wirtzberger said. "He hasn't pitched in over a week. I gave them (the players) the day off yesterday and I'm going to see how they feel. (The other starter) might be a game-time decision."

When it comes to the district race, the double-dip against Lewistown is critical. The Redbirds were one of the teams that qualified for state last season and, with a 5-3 record, two wins could put the Northstars right into the mix near the top of the standings. However, after the Lewistown series, Havre will have just 14 district games left and with 10 on the road, the Northstars need as many wins as possible as they head for the closing stretch.

"It would be a big jump (beating Lewistown)," Wirtzberger said. "I haven't seen the district standings yet, but any time you can get two wins at home regardless of the opponent it's a big deal. We know that if we go out there and execute our game plan we can beat anyone. It's just a matter of going out there and staying focused."


Certainly, the Northstars will be looking for a strong performance from McKay and whoever starts the second game against Lewistown, however, producing runs might be an even bigger factor. So far this season, Havre has scored five or more runs 13 times and in those five games, the Northstars have a record of 10-3. Consequently, Havre has been held to four runs or fewer eight times and in those instances, the club has a record of 3-5.

As a team, the Northstars come into the doubleheader with Lewistown scoring 7.4 runs per game and with a team batting average of .292. A big key for the offense has been the duo of Ethan Roberts and Quinn Reno at the top of the order, who lead the Northstars with batting averages of .482 of .406 respectively.

In addition to leading Havre in batting average, Roberts has also been dynamic on the basepaths with 23 stolen bases and a team-high 38 runs, which is twice more than anyone else on the team. On top of hitting .482, Roberts has also drawn 19 walks, which gives him a ridiculous on-base percentage of .681.

When it comes to driving runs, Antley has been the top guy on the team with 19 RBIs. He also has scored 18 runs to go along with his .378 batting average and his on-base percentage of .507. Reno also has done more than hit for average with 14 RBIs and 19 runs scored, while another key hitter has been Austin Delarosa, who is hitting .313 with an on-base percentage of .431 in addition to 11 RBIs and 13 runs scored. McKay is another Northstars player who has reached double digits in RBIs (10) and runs scored (16).


Defensively, Roberts has also been special in center and he is among the team leaders in putouts in addition to being the only regular starter without an error this season, although Reno, who leads the team in putouts with 67, also has a 91.8 fielding percentage.

The Northstars will be looking to put their best foot forward in all aspects against Lewistown tonight in a critical set of district games. The doubleheader is scheduled to start at Legion Field tonight at 5.

 

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