By Kim Staudinger
The Havre Comets ended their season last year falling just short of a trip to the state tournament. The team who ended their hopes of going was their rival, the Havre Northstars.
This year the Northstars team looks very similar to last year's Comets team with the exception of four players. Doug Ireland, Dusty Heath, Danny Wirtzberger and Eric Lipp all return for coach Mickey Williams with the addition of 14 former Comets players.
"It was really hard for me to give those kids up," Comets coach Bob Evans said.
Now, those talented players Evans gave up will be facing their former coach on Sunday. The two teams had originally planned to play one nine-inning game but will now play two six-inning games, Williams said today. Game time is still set for 1 p.m.
Evans said his team is "a lot greener" this year but he still expects a lot from his players.
"I think we're going to surprise a few," Evans said. "We probably have a stronger pitching staff than most would expect. I'm really pleased with the kids. They're good kids, too, and really coachable."
Still, Evans said, it will be harder to win as many games as they did last season because the district has more experienced teams in it this year.
"I just hope we can be competitive with the rest of the teams," he said, noting his team has a goal of getting back to the district tournament again this season.
Before the Comets can think about making it back to the district tournament, though, they have to deal with the Northstars Sunday.
"I just hope to be competitive game in and game out," Evans said. "If we are, I'll be real happy."
Beating the Northstars won't be an easy task, Evans said.
"I can't see anybody who will beat them even with the improvements of Fort McLeod and Vauxhall. I don't think anybody will be able to touch them."
The Northstars started to show how dominant they would be this season last Sunday, trouncing the Great Falls Sparkies in two games by a combined score of 45-5.
"Don't expect that to happen all the time. We'll be very competitive but we won't beat every team like that," Williams said. "I expect us to be on top but I would be more happy if we just play consistently."
Williams said his team's strengths are pitching and defense, but that the team's hitting still needs some work.
Sunday will give both teams a chance to experiement and to get a good look at their pitchers, Williams said.