By Tiffany Rehbein
Battling through the wind and basking in the sun, the Havre Northstars split a doubleheader with the Great Falls Stallions A team Wednesday at Legion Field.
Under a dark sky with rain on the horizon, the Northstars dropped the first game 5-4.
The game opened with a blazing Great Falls team leading 4-1 at the end of one inning. The not-quite-warmed-up pitcher Alan Mapes, who finished with 12 strike outs in the loss, allowed the first five batters on base, two with walks.
Of those five Stallions, Dino Johnson and Chris Ramstead hit back-to-back doubles in opposite corners of the field to score two runs each for the Stallions.
Havre was only able to answer with one run in the bottom of the inning when Jarrod Wirt singled, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Jake Ingram then grounded out collecting an RBI as Wirt scored.
Havre scored again in the bottom of the second inning when, with one out and the bases loaded, Ryan Evans singled to second and Bryan Thompson scored.
As the wind began to die down so did the runs until the bottom of the fourth when Havre found one more gust of strength to score two runs. With one out, Mace Mangold sliced a double into left field. Then, with two outs, Ryan Evans singled into right field and collected an RBI as Mangold scored. Again, with two outs and Evans on first base, Wirt pounded a 1-2 pitch into the right field gap to score Evans, evening the game at 4-4.
Things turned dark for the Stars in the top of the seventh, however, when a costly error at first allowed a man on base. Then, with two outs, Johnson floated a 3-2 pitch on the wind. He collected a double and an RBI in the effort as it bounced off the center field wall. The Stallions collected the win.
But when the sun began to shine on the field, it shone on the Stars as well as they sought redemption and downed the Stallions 13-9 in game two. But it was not until they used three pitchers. And it was not until they tallied nine hits and 13 runs.
Pitcher Jake Ingram started for the Stars, but after facing only four batters, pitching only four strikes and walking three batters, head coach Mickey Williams replaced Ingram with Ryan Evans. Evans retired the inning, but only after the Stallions scored two unearned runs.
Havre came to life in the bottom of second inning when they scored eight runs on five hits. Mapes opened the line-up turning the first pitch into a double for the Stars. Nate Baltrusch walked onto base. Josh Lybecker then tapped a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners.
Then with one out and runners on second and third, David Heberly hit a drive to first base where Tony Nichols committed an error allowing Mapes and Baltrusch to score.
And the inning had just begun. Wirt singled to the short stop. Then with two outs, Mangold walked and Ricky Brown faced the bases loaded. He pounded a shot to the short stop who committed a throwing error to first base. Heberly and Wirt scored.
Next, Michael Holden stepped to the plate. There were two outs. He faced an 0-2 pitch. He had teammates on first and third. And without the aid of the wind, he sailed a shot to the center field wall. Mangold and Brown scored. Holden tallied a double and two RBIs.
The Stallions took some time as Tyler Rames warmed up, replacing Zade Coley who started for Great Falls. The Stars were suddenly where they began, Mapes was at-bat. A runner waited, poised, at second. Again, almost to the exact spot, Mapes drove a shot to deep left field, scoring Holden and collecting a double.
And still in the second inning, Baltrusch followed with another single to left field while Mapes advanced to third. Then, as Baltrusch stole second, the catcher overthrew the base and Mapes scored on the error. Finally, as Lybecker grounded out, the side was retired.
Havre scored three more runs in the third inning thanks to a Great Falls pitcher error. And thanks to a triple by Brown who tallied an RBI on the shot. And thanks to a single by Holden who also tallied an RBI.
Great Falls subbed another pitcher, Ben Snipes, into the game who ended the inning. Havre used their third pitcher after facing one batter in the top of the fourth inning when Jarrod Wirt took command.
I guess we can only play in the sunshine, said Williams after the match-up. We did a better job at the plate hitting the ball better.
The Northstars finished with four triples on the day, three coming in the second game and two coming off the bat of Wirt. They also tallied four doubles on the day with three coming in game two and two coming from Mapes in the same inning.
We still had trouble with walks and errors, said Williams, but went on to say that better hitting made up for the weaknesses. You can have two bad aspects of the game, but you cant have all three at the same time, poor hitting, poor pitching and poor defense.
The Northstars travel to Canada Friday through Sunday to play in the Medicine Hat Tournament.